Chicago

Initial Findings

 

 


Rosenbaum, Emily, Laura Harris, and Nancy A. Denton, “New Places, New Faces: An Analysis of Neighborhoods and Social Ties among MTO Movers in Chicago,” November 2, 1999.

SUMMARY

This study is based on the experiences of families in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Opportunity program. The program was designed to isolate the impact of neighborhood environment on a range of outcomes by randomly assigning volunteer public housing residents in high-poverty neighborhoods either to a control group or to one of two treatments groups who received vouchers to move out of public housing. In addition to the vouchers, one of these groups (the Experimental group) was given additional assistance and counseling services, and was required to move to a low-poverty neighborhood.

This study compares the improvements in satisfaction and security for the Experimental group with those of the Section 8 group. The authors examine improvements experienced by the program participants in housing and neighborhood quality, whether those improvements varied in magnitude between the Experimental group and the Section 8 group, and what factors affect the ability of participants to adjust to their new homes. Results show that both groups experienced significant improvements in various measures of neighborhood quality, such as housing quality and feelings of safety and security, but that the Experimental group tended to fare better. They also were more likely to satisfy their preferences for neighborhoods with more mixed racial composition, which the authors suggest raises important questions about the impact of housing market barriers on well-being, and about the role of counseling and services as a complement to housing vouchers.

QUESTIONS

  • What improvements in housing and neighborhood quality were achieved by program participants?
  • How do these improvements vary in magnitude between experimental and comparison groups?
  • What factors facilitate or inhibit the ability of program participants to adjust, in the short term, to their new homes?

 

DATA AND DESIGN

  • The Urban Institute’s Underclass Database, which provides 1990 census tract information.
  • The US Department of Housing and Urban Development baseline survey completed by all participants in the MTO program prior to any move.
  • A telephone survey conducted by mover families in Chicago an average of 13 months after the families moved and 24.6 months after the baseline survey. Difficulty securing phone numbers led to a low response rate (51.3%). Of 285 households to lease up in Chicago, phone numbers were available for 234, while 120 were contacted and surveyed. Of these, 67 were in the MTO group, and 53 were in the Section 8 group. Two-tailed tests were conducted to determine whether phone survey sample were statistically different than the population of households in the program, using the baseline data. The MTO families surveyed by phone were found to be representative of the larger group of MTO families, but the Section 8 families in the phone survey had greater feelings of well-being along several dimensions, as compared to all participating Section 8 families. The authors note that this may have understated the difference in outcomes between the Experimental group and the Section 8 group.
  • The single regression model used as its dependent variable an index of three true-false statements concerning respondents' feelings about their neighborhoods. There are five independent variables: 1) a dummy variable for assignment group, 2) an index of feelings of safety, created by the mean score of four safety rating variables; 3) a sum of four possible social ties reported for the new neighborhood; 4) the sum of five indicators of neighborhood problems; and 5) a dummy indicating whether a family’s preferred neighborhood racial composition was not met.

 

RESULTS

  • The MTO families were more likely than Section 8-only families to satisfy their preferences for neighborhoods with a mixture of racial/ethnic groups, while Section 8 families were more likely to move to mostly black neighborhoods despite having stated preference for mixed areas (68% of Section 8 versus 16% of Experimental).
  • Both Section 8 and Experimental groups experienced dramatic improvements in their specific housing conditions and a feeling of security, though the Experimental group was more successful generally.
  • It is not clear which factors contributed to the higher reported levels of housing quality from the Experimental group relative to the Section 8-only group (e.g. the requirement that they move to low-poverty neighborhoods or the counseling or landlord lists they receive).
  • Though both Experimental and Section 8-only families reported large declines in problems relating to housing and neighborhood safety, Experimental group families were significantly less likely than Section 8-only families to report problems related to social disorder or physical deterioration in their new neighborhoods. Experimental group families also experienced a higher level of positive adjustment than Section 8 families, with the sole predictor in the authors' regression model being an increased sense of personal safety in the new neighborhood.
  • These differences in adjustment are significantly weakened after controlling for the unmet preferences in racial composition of the new neighborhood. The authors suggest that this finding raises important policy issues about the impact on well-being of housing market barriers. They go on to state that their results point to a clear benefit of housing counseling and search assistance, when these are coupled with housing vouchers.

Rosenbaum, Emily and Laura E. Harris, “Short-term Impacts of Moving for Children: Evidence from the Chicago MTO Program.” Final version to be published in Choosing a Better Life:  Evaluating the Moving to Opportunity Social Experiment. Edited by John Goering and Judith Feins.  Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, forthcoming.

SUMMARY

This study is based on the experiences of families in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Moving to Opportunity Program.  The program was designed to isolate the impact of neighborhood environment on a range of outcomes by randomly assigning volunteer public housing residents in high-poverty neighborhood.  Program participants were assigned to either a control group or to one of two treatment groups, both of which received vouchers to move out of public housing.  Aside from the vouchers, one of these groups (the MTO Experimental group) was given additional assistance and counseling services, and was required to move to a low-poverty neighborhood.

This paper focuses on two questions:  How has moving affected children?  And does children's short-term experiences vary depending on their program status?  The authors do not compare the treatment groups to the control group, but do examine the differences between movers within each of the treatment groups, as indicated by objective and subjective measures of neighborhood quality and children's performance in school.  They find that members of both treatment groups experienced higher levels of social organization, which encompasses such things as safety, disorder, and opportunities and risks to children.  Yet members of the experimental group fared, on average, significantly better.  Both groups reported a mixture of positive and negative school-related experiences after moving, though the authors indicate concern about sample size for those questions relating to school experiences.  More generally, it should be noted that the primary component of the data in this study was gleaned from a phone survey that suffered from a small sample size and low response rate (51%); the authors suggest that this may understate the differences in outcomes between the two treatment groups.

QUESTIONS

  • How has moving affected children?
  • Do children's short-term experiences vary depending on their program status?

 

DATA SOURCES

  • The Urban Institute's Underclass Database, which provides 1990 census tract information.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development baseline survey completed by all participants in the MTO program prior to any move.
  • A telephone survey conducted by mover families in Chicago an average of 13 months after the families moved and 24.6 months after the baseline survey. Difficulty securing phone numbers led to a low response rate (51.3%). Of 285 households to lease up in Chicago, phone numbers were available for 234.  120 program participants were contacted and surveyed. Of these, 67 were in the MTO group, and 53 were in the Section 8 group. Two-tailed tests were conducted to determine whether phone survey sample were statistically different than the population of households in the program, using the baseline data. The MTO families surveyed by phone were found to be representative of the larger group of MTO families, but the Section 8 families in the phone survey had greater feelings of well-being along several measures, as compared to all participating Section 8 families. The authors note that this may have understated the difference in outcomes between the Experimental group and the Section 8 group.

 

THEORY

While there is significant evidence of the link between neighborhood-level characteristics and children’s outcomes, the precise mechanisms by which neighborhoods affect children are less clear. The authors use as a point of departure the social disorganization theory (Elliot et al. 1996, Sampson 1997).  This theory posits social processes and relationships (e.g. role models of acceptable behavior, collective socialization, informal social control, and social disorder) as the bridge linking neighborhood structure with children’s development. Mothers were asked questions about their new and old neighborhoods, focusing on safety, disorder, opportunities and risks to their children.

RESULTS

  • Mothers in both the Experimental and Section 8-only groups appear to have been able to move to neighborhoods with far higher levels of social organization than existed in their origin neighborhoods, as evidenced both by mothers’ own perceptions and census tract data. However, families in the experimental group fared significantly better than Section 8-only families.
  • Families with children who changed schools reported a mixture of positive and negative school-related experiences. The authors report some concern about sample size when only considering students who changed schools when they moved. However, their findings are consistent with past studies (e.g. Gautreaux), which suggest that children switching from urban to suburban schools outperformed their urban counterparts in the long run, despite some initial difficulties.
  • In summary, short term outcomes for children were improved for both the Section 8-only and Experimental groups, but both census tract data and interviews with mothers indicate that the children in the experimental group fared significantly better.

Rosenbaum, Emily and Laura E. Harris, “Low Income Families in their New Neighborhoods: The Short-term Effects of Moving from Chicago's Public Housing.” Final version published in Journal of Family Issues (March 13, 2000), 183-210.

AUTHORS' ABSTRACT

This paper investigates short-term changes in neighborhood conditions for families moving from Chicago public housing as part of the Moving to Opportunity demonstration program (MTO). MTO features a controlled experimental design, and thus may be better suited than survey-based studies, in the long run, to elucidate the effects of neighborhood conditions on family and children's well-being. This paper presents evidence of the dramatic improvements in community characteristics achieved by families moving from public housing to private market apartments, and suggests some consideration for these community characteristics as mediating factors that precede measurable long-term gains in education and employment.

We focus on five key aspects of family well-being, including neighborhood conditions, feelings of safety, experiences with crime, opportunities and risks for teenagers, and access to services. Not surprisingly, regardless of the neighborhood location of the families after they move from public housing, all families experience significant improvements on all measures. Further, those families that were required to move to low-poverty neighborhoods experienced the greatest improvements. The only important drawback to these low poverty moves appears to be the relative isolation of the destination, particularly as far as access to public transportation is concerned; however, more effective housing counseling programs might help families choose neighborhoods with better access to transportation and closer to other services like doctors or employers.

QUESTIONS

  • To what degree does participation in MTO change families’ experiences of five measures of well-being: neighborhood conditions, feelings of safety, experiences with crime, opportunities and risks for teenagers, and access to services?
  • How do the families' experiences differ depending on the program group assignment?

 

DATA SOURCES

  • The Urban Institute’s Underclass Database, which provides 1990 census tract information.
  • The US Department of Housing and Urban Development baseline survey completed by all participants in the MTO program prior to any move.
  • A telephone survey conducted by mover families in Chicago an average of 13 months after the families moved and 24.6 months after the baseline survey. Difficulty securing phone numbers led to a low response rate (51.3%). Of 285 households to lease up in Chicago, phone numbers were available for 234.  120 program participants were contacted and surveyed. Of these, 67 were in the MTO group, and 53 were in the Section 8 group. Two-tailed tests were conducted to determine whether phone survey sample were statistically different than the population of households in the program, using the baseline data. The MTO families surveyed by phone were found to be representative of the larger group of MTO families, but the Section 8 families in the phone survey had greater feelings of well-being along several measures, as compared to all participating Section 8 families. The authors note that this may have understated the difference in well-being between the Experimental group and the Section 8 group.

 

RESULTS

  • Changes in Objective Neighborhood Conditions: The average destination tracts for both the Experimental group and the Section 8 group offered improved neighborhood environments relative to the origin tracts, based on 1990 census tract data. However, the Experimental group enjoyed greater gains as measured by the proportion of their new neighbors who are college graduates, employed in high-status occupations, and earning incomes instead of receiving public assistance. The authors infer from this that the MTO families were, on average, able to relocate to neighborhoods with greater levels of social organization (see Elliot et al. 1996, Sampson 1997).
  • Changes in Subjective Neighborhood Conditions: Both treatment groups reported great reductions in social and physical disorder in their new versus old neighborhoods, as well as less public incivility, widespread idleness, and violence and crime. Not surprisingly, families in both groups reported greater feelings of safety and security in their new neighborhoods.  The improvements reported by the MTO families, however, surpassed those reported by the Section 8 group. Mothers in the MTO group reported far fewer problems with indicators of social disorder such as trash, graffiti, public drinking, drugs, and abandoned buildings. The same pattern of improvements (i.e. with the MTO families reporting more positively) applies opportunities and risks facing teens as perceived by heads of household. With regard to crime and feelings of security (a major factors motivating moves from public housing), both treatment groups reported very large improvements of generally similar magnitudes. The same is true of improved access to services, though fewer MTO mothers reported easy access to trains and buses in comparison with the Section 8 group.
  • The authors suggest that the fact that some Section 8 families moved to neighborhoods that were similar to those to which the average Experimental group family moved, while others moved to neighborhoods that were virtually indistinguishable from those they left behind suggests the potential benefit that could be gained when housing assistance is coupled with added services, such as search assistance.

 


Rosenbaum, Emily and Laura E. Harris, “Residential Mobility and Opportunities: Early Impacts of the Moving to Opportunity Demonstration Program in Chicago,” Housing Policy Debate (2001), Fannie Mae Foundation, 321-346.

AUTHORS' ABSTRACT

The declining conditions of many urban public housing developments are well-documented, and have prompted heated debates about strategies for deconcentrating urban poverty. Federal housing assistance has shifted away from the development and preservation of public housing developments, and most recent initiatives include vouchers to enable households to have a choice in the type and location of their housing. Thus, it is essential to understand if, and how, vouchers can improve the life chances of poor families.

We use survey data from the Moving to Opportunity demonstration program in Chicago to explore changes for households moving from public housing. We focus on two Chicago to explore changes for households moving from public housing. We focus on two key areas: (1) housing and neighborhood conditions, and (2) labor force participation of respondents. The experimental design of the MTO program allows us to examine differences between households moving with a regular Section 8 voucher and those households moving to low-poverty neighborhoods with housing counseling assistance. Our findings are based on interviews with families an average of one and a half years after their initial move, and reveal dramatic improvements that families on from both program groups experience when they move -- the experimental group who move to low-poverty neighborhoods experience even greater gains in terms of housing and especially neighborhood conditions. Employment increased for both program groups, likely fueled by the robust economy throughout much of the country, supporting similar findings for MTO program participants in New York and Boston.

QUESTIONS

  • To what degree does participation in the MTO program change families’ experience of well-being, as measured by housing and neighborhood conditions, and employment levels?
  • How do families’ experiences differ depending on program group assignment (i.e. Section 8 group vs. Experimental group)?

 

DATA SOURCES

  • The Urban Institute’s Underclass Database, which provides 1990 census tract information.
  • The US Department of Housing and Urban Development baseline survey completed by all participants in the MTO program prior to any move.
  • A telephone survey conducted by mover families in Chicago an average of 13 months after the families moved and 24.6 months after the baseline survey. Difficulty securing phone numbers led to a low response rate (51.3%). Of 285 households to lease up in Chicago, phone numbers were available for 234.  120 program participants were contacted and surveyed. Of these, 67 were in the MTO group, and 53 were in the Section 8 group. Two-tailed tests were conducted to determine whether phone survey sample were statistically different than the population of households in the program, using the baseline data. The MTO families surveyed by phone were found to be representative of the larger group of MTO families, but the Section 8 families in the phone survey had greater feelings of well-being along several measures, as compared to all participating Section 8 families. The authors note that this may have understated the difference in neighborhood conditions between the Experimental group and the Section 8 group.

 

RESULTS

  • Both the Section 8 group and the Experimental group indicated higher rates of satisfaction in their new neighborhoods (from less than one-in-ten satisfied, to a majority in both groups). The differences in the improvements for each group were not statistically significant.
  • Data on housing and neighborhood conditions suggest that the MTO has succeeded in improving the experiences of these aspects of well-being for both groups of mover families. With regards to neighborhood conditions, the gains of the Experimental group significantly exceeded those of the Section 8 group, suggesting an extra benefit of the additional services provided to Experimental group members and/or the program requirement of moving to low-poverty neighborhoods.
  • Respondents from both treatment groups were much more likely to be participating in the labor force after their moves. It should be noted that the baseline data on these groups provides the comparison, rather than a control group that remained in public housing. Hence, it is difficult to distinguish the impact of program participation from the general improvements in the economy that occurred over the time period in question. Differences in the gains of the two treatment groups were not statistically significant.
  • MTO families were far more likely than Section 8 families to meet or surpass their preferences for suburban and racially mixed locations. The authors note that this finding illustrates that when assisted households are provided with supplemental services to broaden their housing choices, they are better able to make moves to improved environment and to overcome any racial or other barriers to housing that may exist. However, the relative impact of the additional services (as opposed to the program requirement of having Experimental group families move to low poverty neighborhoods) is not clear.

CITATION

Brennan, Brian.  "Chicago." Moving To Opportunity Research.  Created August 30, 2000.  Last Modified August 5, 2002.  http://www.nber.org/mtopublic/chicago.htm.

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