Youth Criminal Behavior in the Moving to Opportunity Experiment
The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration assigned housing vouchers via random lottery to low-income public housing residents in five cities. We use the exogenous variation in residential locations generated by the MTO demonstration to estimate the effects of neighborhoods on youth crime and delinquency. We find that the offer to relocate to lowerpoverty areas reduces the incidence of arrests among female youth for violent crimes and property crimes, and increases self-reported problem behaviors and property crime arrests for male youth -- relative to a control group. Female and male youth move through MTO into similar types of neighborhoods, so the gender difference in MTO treatment effects seems to reflect differences in responses to similar neighborhoods. Within-family analyses similarly show that brothers and sisters respond differentially to the same new neighborhood environments with more adverse effects for males. Males show some short-term improvements in delinquent behaviors from moves to lower-poverty areas, but these effects are reversed and gender differences in MTO treatment effects become pronounced by 3 to 4 years after random assignment.
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