The Early Impacts of Moving to Opportunity in Boston
This study focuses on 540 households originally living in public housing in high-poverty areas of Boston who participated in HUD’s Moving To Opportunity (MTO) demonstration. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Experimental – offered mobility counseling and a Section 8 subsidy valid in a 1990 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 eligibility for public housing. We find that 48 percent of the Experimental group and 62 percent of the Section 8 Comparison group moved through the MTO program. Both groups moved to areas that differ on many dimensions from their origin neighborhoods, having lower poverty rates, higher education levels, and greater employment rates. In a survey covering participants on average two years after program entry, we find that both Experimental and Section 8 Comparison group households experienced increased safety, fewer behavior problems among boys, and improved health among household heads relative to the Control group. The Experimental group also had fewer injuries and criminal victimizations among children. Although employment rates for all participants have increased substantially since 1994, there were no significant impacts of either MTO treatment on the employment or earnings of household heads in Massachusetts administrative earnings data through December 1998. The results reported in this study cover only the early impacts of MTO at one site. The longterm impacts of changes in residential location facilitated by MTO may not be apparent for some time. The large early improvements observed for the MTO Experimental group in term of mother’s mental health and fewer child problem behaviors may be important intermediating factors in longrun child socioeconomic outcomes. But the short-term impacts of MTO are also of independent importance. Many of the hopes of MTO Experimental and Section 8 Comparison families concerning increased safety, reduced stress, and improved environments for their children already appear to have been realized through moves made possible by the demonstration.
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