Neighborhood Effects on Low-Income Youth

Investigator: Greg Duncan

Funding: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Smith Richardson Foundation

This project aims to provide the first rigorous assessment of the long-term causal effects of neighborhoods on children and parents. From 1994 to 1998, more than 4,600 low-income families in five major U.S. cities enrolled in the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) study. Each family was randomly assigned to one of three groups: a low-poverty voucher group, a traditional Section 8 voucher group, or a control group. MTO mandated destination neighborhoods with poverty rates of 10 percent or less. In the current project, data from a follow-up to the MTO residential mobility experiment are being analyzed in order to examine the impacts of residential mobility on child and adult outcomes for low-income families living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Nonexperimental studies have generally indicated "better neighborhoods, better outcomes" for comparable groups of children. Yet starting with the 2002 data, findings indicate that the only effect that seems to carry over to female adults is an improvement in mental health. On average, young men who moved because of MTO seemed to do worse in terms of risky and criminal behavior.