Sunday, November 27, 2011

Low-wage families require more assistance than just moves to new neighborhoods

A 15-year study of families who moved from high-poverty to low-poverty neighborhoods finds that they did not necessarily enjoy access to greater opportunities:

[The "Moving To Opportunity" study group’s] special mobility assistance didn’t enable families to gain and sustain access to high-opportunity neighborhoods. Although many moved to better housing in safer neighborhoods, few moved to neighborhoods served by high-performing public schools. And few spent more than a year or two in low-poverty neighborhoods. Rising rents, problems with landlords, and difficulty finding the next apartment all pushed families back to less desirable neighborhoods.

In other words, they didn’t really move to opportunity. It turns out that helping low-income families find, afford, and hang on to housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods requires more help than anticipated. Building on the lessons of MTO, mobility assistance programs in Dallas, Chicago, and Baltimore are now offering more hands-on help (with both the first move and subsequent moves) so families they serve can move to and stay in safe neighborhoods with good schools and abundant opportunities for both kids and adults.

It seems to me that helping low-income families move to greater opportunities requires governments to spend more money providing and sustaining supportive infrastructure (parks and libraries) and truly public schools. Also, without some sort of regulations on the apartment market, I don't see how working-class families will survive higher-income neighborhoods, where the atmosphere is more of a free-for-all than fair-value.

1 comment:

  1. Linked below a thoughtful article on the subject of moving people around, concluding that it just shuffles the crime around.

    Perhaps instead of moving people around in an effort to drop them into a better situation, more effort should be made to change the culture and dysfunction found in their current habitats.

    American Murder Mystery - The Atlantic - 2008

    "If replacing housing projects with vouchers had achieved its main goal—infusing the poor with middle-class habits—then higher crime rates might be a price worth paying. But today, social scientists looking back on the whole grand experiment are apt to use words like baffling and disappointing. A large federal-government study conducted over the past decade—a follow-up to the highly positive, highly publicized Gautreaux study of 1991—produced results that were “puzzling,” said Susan Popkin of the Urban Institute. In this study, volunteers were also moved into low-poverty neighborhoods, although they didn’t move nearly as far as the Gautreaux families. Women reported lower levels of obesity and depression. But they were no more likely to find jobs. The schools were not much better, and children were no more likely to stay in them. Girls were less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and they reported feeling more secure in their new neighborhoods. But boys were as likely to do drugs and act out, and more likely to get arrested for property crimes. The best Popkin can say is: “It has not lived up to its promise. It has not lifted people out of poverty, it has not made them self-sufficient, and it has left a lot of people behind.”