Do Neighborhoods Affect Credit Market Decisions of Low-Income Borrowers? Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment

Sarah Miller, Cindy K. Soo

NBER Working Paper No. 25023
Issued in September 2018, Revised in January 2019
NBER Program(s):Public Economics Program

This paper provides new evidence on the long-term impacts of neighborhood environment on low-income credit decisions by analyzing financial outcomes and borrowing decisions of participants of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment. The MTO experiment was a unique, large-scale experiment that offered families vouchers to move to better neighborhoods via randomized lottery. Families received one of two types of housing vouchers: the first (Experimental) required families to move to very low poverty neighborhoods, and the second (Section 8) allowed families unrestricted choice of neighborhood. We find that participants who moved to lower poverty neighborhoods as young children experienced better access to and greater use of credit into adulthood, with the largest effects experienced by those who moved to the lowest poverty neighborhoods. While we do not find adult and older children experience the same benefits to credit outcomes, we do find they experience improvements in delinquency and debt behaviors, particularly among those who received unrestricted Section 8 vouchers. We also find evidence that children whose families received unrestricted Section 8 vouchers have significantly lower payday loan usage.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25023

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