Boston

Initial Findings

 

DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE

Katz, Lawrence F., Jeffrey R. Kling, and Jeffrey B. Liebman, “The Early Impacts of Moving to Opportunity in Boston,” October 2000. Subsequently revised and published in Choosing a Better Life: Evaluating the Moving to Opportunity Social ExperimentEdited by John Goering and Judith Feins.  Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, 2003. 

Kling, Jeffrey R., Jeffrey B. Liebman, and Lawrence F. Katz, “Bullets Don't Got No Name: Consequences of Fear in the Ghetto,” Joint Center for Poverty Research Working Paper 225, April 2001. Subsequently revised and published in Discovering Successful Pathways in Children’s Development:  Mixed Methods in the Study of Childhood and Family Life.  Edited by Thomas S. Weisner.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004.

MTO-Boston Follow-up Survey Instrument in English and Spanish.

MTO-Boston Sources of Survey Questions.

Katz, Lawrence F., Jeffrey R. Kling, and Jeffrey B. Liebman, “Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment,” Final version published in Quarterly Journal of Economics (May 2001) 607-654.

SUMMARY

This research examines the short-run impacts of a change in residential neighborhood on the well-being of low-income families, using evidence from a program in which eligibility for a housing voucher was determined by random lottery. The experiences of households at the Boston site of Moving To Opportunity (MTO), a demonstration program in five cities, are examined. Families in high poverty public housing projects applied to MTO and were assigned by lottery to one of three groups: Experimental -- offered mobility counseling and a Section 8 subsidy valid only in a Census tract with a poverty rate of less than 10 percent; Section 8 Comparison -- offered a geographically unrestricted Section 8 subsidy; or Control -- offered no new assistance, but continued to be eligible for public housing.

Quantitative analyses of program impacts uses data on 540 families from a baseline survey conducted at program enrollment, a follow-up survey administered 1 to 3.5 years after random assignment, and state administrative data on earnings and welfare receipt. 48 percent of the Experimental group and 62 percent of the Section 8 Comparison group moved through the MTO program. One to three years after program entry, families in both treatment groups were more likely to be residing in neighborhoods with low poverty rates and high education levels than were families in the Control group. However, while members of the Experimental group were much more likely to be residing in suburban communities than were those in the Section 8 group, the lower program take-up rate among the Experimental group resulted in more families remaining in the most distressed communities. Households in both treatment groups experienced improvements in multiple measures of well-being relative to the Control group including increased safety, improved health among household heads, and fewer behavior problems among boys. Experimental group children were also less likely to be a victim of a personal crime, to be injured, or to experience an asthma attack. There are no significant impacts of MTO treatment either on the employment, earnings, or welfare receipt of household heads in the first three years after random assignment.

QUESTION

 

  • What are the comprehensive impacts of a residential neighborhood on the well-being of residents?

 

DATA AND DESIGN

 

Five data collection methods were used:

 

  • Field work to observe the operations of the program.
  • 12 open-ended qualitative interviews with a random sample of household heads in the Experimental and Section 8 Comparison groups.
  • The HUD MTO baseline survey, completed by all participants in Section 8-only, Experimental, and Control groups of the MTO program.
  • A follow-up survey of 520 MTO families, on average 2 years after entry into the program. 340 of these were conducted by phone between June and July, 1997, with an additional 180 interviews in person, for an overall response rate of 96.3 percent. The sample was limited to families who had taken up to 120 days to find a new residence and then had lived in that residence for at least nine months.
  • State administrative data on earnings from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
  • State administrative data on public assistance usage from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

 

Controlling for characteristics known prior to randomization, the authors estimate the effect of the Intent To Treat (ITT); that is, the average causal effects for those who took-up the treatment and those who did not. The effect of Treatment on the Treated (TOT) is then estimated by using treatment assignment as an instrumental variable, and imputing a “Control Complier Mean” (CCM)-- the a counterfactual estimating what the effect of treatment would have been for control group members, had they received treatment.

RESULTS

  • One to three years after program entry, families in both treatment groups were more likely to be residing in neighborhoods with low poverty rates and high education levels than were families in the Control group. However, while members of the Experimental group were much more likely to be residing in suburban communities than were those in the Section 8 group, the lower program take-up rate among the Experimental group resulted in more families remaining in the most distressed communities.
  • MTO Experimental group families had moved to neighborhoods that had significantly lower poverty rates, higher employment rates, and a greater degree of racial heterogeneity, in comparison to the Control group families. The Section 8 Comparison group had similar, but smaller, differences from the Control group families. Both treatment groups had moved to neighborhoods with less drug dealing and less gunfire, and were less likely to be victims of property crimes, while children in the Experimental group were less likely to be victims of personal crimes.
  • There were no significant impacts of MTO treatment on either the employment, earnings, or welfare receipt of household heads in the first three years after random assignment.
  • Households in both treatment groups experienced improvements in multiple measures of wellbeing relative to the Control group, including increased safety, improved health among household heads, and fewer behavior problems among boys. Experimental group children were also less likely to be victims of a personal crime, to be injured, or to experience an asthma attack.

CITATION

Brennan, Brian.  “Boston.” Moving To Opportunity Research.  Created August 30, 2000.  Last Modified February 7, 2001.  http://www.nber.org/mtopublic/boston.htm.

 

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