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The Early Impacts of Moving to Opportunity in Boston


  • Lawrence F. Katz

    (Harvard University and NBER)

  • Jeffrey R. Kling

    (Princeton University and NBER)

  • Jeffrey B. Liebman

    (Harvard University and NBER)


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 long-term 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 long-run 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Lawrence F. Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2000. "The Early Impacts of Moving to Opportunity in Boston," Working Papers 276, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cheawb:5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ludwig, Jens & Duncan, Greg J. & Pinkston, Joshua C., 1999. "Housing Vouchers and Economic Self-Sufficiency: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt76s50190, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
    2. Maria Hanratty & Sara McLanahan & Becky Pettit, 1998. "The Impact Of The Los Angeles Moving Opportunity Program On Residential Mobility, Neighborhood Characteristics, And Early Child And Parent Outcomes," Working Papers 990, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    3. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 531-542.
    4. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-277, June.
    5. Daniel Aaronson, 1998. "Using Sibling Data to Estimate the Impact of Neighborhoods on Children's Educational Outcomes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 915-946.
    6. Lawrence F. Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 607-654.
    7. repec:pri:crcwel:wp98-18-hanratty is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Currie, Janet & Yelowitz, Aaron, 2000. "Are public housing projects good for kids?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 99-124, January.
    2. Philip J. Cook, 2008. "Assessing Urban Crime And Its Control: An Overview," NBER Working Papers 13781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R31 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Housing Supply and Markets
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy


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