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Beyond Treatment Effects: Estimating the Relationship Between Neighborhood Poverty and Individual Outcomes in the MTO Experiment

  • Lawrence Katz
  • Jeffrey R. Kling

Several important social science literatures hinge on the functional relationship between neighborhood characteristics and individual outcomes. Although there have been numerous non-experimental estimates of these relationships, there are serious concerns about their reliability because individuals self-select into neighborhoods. This paper uses data from HUD’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO) randomized housing voucher experiment to estimate the relationship between neighborhood poverty and individual outcomes using experimental variation. In addition, it assesses the reliability of non-experimental estimates by comparing them to experimental estimates. We find that our method for using experimental variation to estimate the relationship between neighborhood poverty and individual outcomes – instrumenting for neighborhood poverty with site-by-treatment group interactions – produces precise estimates in models in which poverty enters linearly. Our estimates of nonlinear and threshold models are not precise enough to be conclusive, though many of our point estimates suggest little, if any, deviation from linearity. Our non-experimental estimates are inconsistent with our experimental estimates, suggesting that non-experimental estimates are not reliable. Moreover, the selection pattern that reconciles the experimental and non-experimental results is complex, suggesting that common assumptions about the direction of bias in non-experimental estimates may be incorrect.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. in its series Working Papers with number 872.

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Date of creation: Aug 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:dsp01g158bh29k
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  1. King, Jeffrey & Liebman, Jeffrey & Katz, Lawrence & Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, 2004. "Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Working Paper Series rwp04-035, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Fernandez, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 1996. "Income Distribution, Communities, and the Quality of Public Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(1), pages 135-64, February.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce I. Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2002. "The Social Multiplier," NBER Working Papers 9153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Currie, Janet & Yelowitz, Aaron, 2000. "Are public housing projects good for kids?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 99-124, January.
  5. de Bartolome, Charles A M, 1990. "Equilibrium and Inefficiency in a Community Model with Peer Group Effects," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(1), pages 110-33, February.
  6. Brian A. Jacob, 2004. "Public Housing, Housing Vouchers, and Student Achievement: Evidence from Public Housing Demolitions in Chicago," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 233-258, March.
  7. Charles F. Manski, 2000. "Economic Analysis of Social Interactions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 115-136, Summer.
  8. Galster, George, 2002. "An economic efficiency analysis of deconcentrating poverty populations," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 303-329, December.
  9. Richard Arnott & John Rowse, 1982. "Peer Group Effects and Educational Attainment," Working Papers 497, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  10. Manski, Charles F, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 531-42, July.
  11. Kling, Jeffrey & Liebman, Jeffrey, 2004. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects on Youth," Working Paper Series rwp04-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  12. Oreopoulos, Philip, 2007. "The Long-Run Consequences of Living in a Poor Neighborhood," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt9np9p7m5, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
  13. Henderson, Vernon & Mieszkowski, Peter & Sauvageau, Yvon, 1978. "Peer group effects and educational production functions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 97-106, August.
  14. Benabou, Roland, 1993. "Workings of a City: Location, Education, and Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 619-52, August.
  15. Jeffrey R. Kling & B. Jeffrey Liebman, 2004. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects on Youth," Working Papers 862, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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