Recent Moving To Opportunity Research







         Neighborhood Effects on Barriers to Employment: Results From a Randomized Housing Mobility Experiment in Baltimore.

Kristin Turney, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Kathryn Edin, Jeffrey R. Kling and Greg J. Duncan. April 2006.


         Is Crime Contagious?

Jens Ludwig and Jeffrey R. Kling. April 2006.


         Moving At-Risk Teenagers Out of High-Risk Neighborhoods: Why Girls Fare Better Than Boys.

Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Kathryn Edin, Jeffrey R. Kling and Greg J. Duncan. March 2006.


Kling, Jeffrey R., Jeffrey B. Liebman and Lawrence F. Katz.. June 2005.


Kling, Jeffrey R., Jeffrey B. Liebman, Lawrence F. Katz., and Lisa Sanbonmatsu. October 2004.


Estimating the Relationship between Neighborhood Poverty and Individual Outcomes in the MTO Experiment. 

Liebman, Jeffrey B., Lawrence F. Katz, and Jeffrey R. Kling. August 2004.


Also available are Web Appendix Tables.

Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, Jeanne-Brooks-Gunn, Greg J. Duncan, and Jeffrey R. Kling. August 2004.


Kling, Jeffrey R., Jens Ludwig, and Lawrence F. Katz. August 2004.


Kling, Jeffrey R., and Jeffrey B. Liebman. May 2004.


Duncan, Greg J., Elizabeth Clark-Kauffman, and Emily Snell. January 2004.


Orr, Larry, Judith D. Feins, Robin Jacob, Erik Beecroft, Lisa Sanbonmatsu, Lawrence F. Katz,

Jeffrey B. Liebman, and Jeffrey R. Kling.  September 2003.


This research is based on data collected in 2002, in all five MTO sites. To apply for access to these data, contact HUD.

For survey instruments and item-by-item sources for survey questions, see:

Feins, Judith D. and Debra McInnis. August 2001.




         Neighborhood Effects on Barriers to Employment: Results From a Randomized Housing Mobility Experiment in Baltimore.


The MTO demonstration finds virtually no significant effects on employment or earnings of adults. Using qualitative data from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 67 participants in Baltimore, this analysis suggests that the voucher group did not experience employment or earnings gains in part because they relied heavily on a particular job search strategy – informal referrals from similarly skilled and credentialed acquaintances who already held jobs in these sectors. The configuration of the metropolitan area’s public transportation routes in relationship to the locations of hospitals, nursing homes, and malls posed additional transportation challenges to the experimental group.


         Is Crime Contagious?


Understanding whether criminal behavior is “contagious” is important for law enforcement and for policies that affect how people are sorted across social settings. This paper tests the hypothesis that criminal behavior is contagious by using MTO data to examine the extent to which lower local-area crime rates decrease arrest rates among individuals. It uses treatment-site interactions to instrument for measures of neighborhood crime rates, poverty and racial segregation in our analysis of individual arrest outcomes. The analysis does not detect evidence in support of the contagion hypothesis.


         Moving At-Risk Teenagers Out of High-Risk Neighborhoods: Why Girls Fare Better Than Boys.


Results from a survey conducted four to seven years after random assignment in the Moving To Opportunity housing voucher demonstration showed that boys in the experimental group fared no better or worse on measures of risk behavior, while girls in the experimental group demonstrated better mental health and lower risk behavior. This follow-up analyzes in-depth interviews conducted with 86 teens 14 to 19 years old. It finds that control group boys deployed more conscious strategies for avoiding neighborhood trouble. The routines of experimental group boys tended to draw negative reactions from community members.

         Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects.

This paper integrates material presented in greater detail in “Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects on Youth,” “Beyond Treatment Effects,” and “Moving To Opportunity and Tranquility” which are abstracted below.

         Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-sufficiency and Health from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment.

Five years after random assignment, the families offered housing vouchers through MTO lived in safer neighborhoods that had significantly lower poverty rates than those of the control group not offered vouchers. We do not reject the null hypothesis that there were no significant overall effects on adult employment, earnings, or public assistance receipt, although our sample sizes are not sufficiently large to rule out moderate effects in either direction. In contrast, we do find significant mental health benefits of the MTO intervention for the experimental group. We also demonstrate a more general pattern for the mental health results using both treatment groups of systematically larger effect sizes for groups experiencing larger changes in neighborhood poverty rates. In our analysis of physical health outcomes, we find a significant reduction in obesity, but no significant effects on four other aspects of physical health (general, asthma, physical limitations, and hypertension). And our summary measure of physical health was not significantly affected by the MTO treatment for the overall sample.

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 neighborhood effects, 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 these experimental estimates to non-experimental estimates using the MTO control group and to non-experimental estimates from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. 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.

Over 5000 children originally living in public housing participated in the Moving to Opportunity demonstration, in which housing vouchers assigned by lottery to some families encouraged moves to neighborhoods with lower poverty rates. Although we had hypothesized that reading and math test scores would be higher among the children in families offered vouchers (with the largest effects among the younger children), the results show no significant effects on test scores for any age group. Effects on school environments were substantially smaller than effects on residential neighborhoods, suggesting that the effects of changing neighborhoods on academic achievement are small.

         Neighborhood Effects on Crime for Female and Male Youth: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment.

  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 lower-poverty 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.

         Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects on Youth.

  We examine the effects of moving out of high-poverty neighborhoods on the outcomes of teenage youth, a population often seen as most at risk from the adverse effects of such neighborhoods.  We study outcomes in four domains: education, risky behavior, mental health, and physical health.  Aggregating effect sizes over all of the outcomes, females in both treatment groups benefited from the moves, while males in both treatment groups experienced worse outcomes.  Females in the experimental group experienced improvements in education and mental health and were less likely to engage in risky behaviors.  Females in the traditional voucher group experienced improvements in mental health.  Males in both treatment groups were more likely than controls to engage in risky behaviors and to experience physical health problems.  We adopt a multiple-testing framework to account for the large number of estimates considered and show how the overall effects on females in the experimental group and the effects on mental health for females in both treatment groups were least likely to be due to sampling variation. Families with female children and families with male children moved to similar neighborhoods, suggesting that their outcomes differ not because of exposure to different types of neighborhoods but because male and female youth respond to their environments in different ways.

         Residential Mobility Interventions as Treatments for the Sequelae of Neighborhood Violence.

A review of results four to seven years after baseline in MTO revealed substantial program-based improvements in adults’ perceptions of neighborhood safety and victimization and in adults’ mental health. Impacts on the violence experienced by children were much smaller than for adults and also smaller for boys than girls. Mental health improvements were also confined to girls. Boys’ problem behaviors may actually have worsened as the result of their families’ receiving the MTO program offer to move to low-poverty neighborhoods.

         Moving to Opportunity: Interim Impacts Evaluation. 


  This report looks at the impact that moves through MTO have had on housing, health, employment, education, mobility, welfare receipt, and delinquency.  The results presented in this report show the impacts of moving to lower poverty approximately 5-years after the move, for a sample of 4200 families. Within this timeframe, moving to lower poverty areas had significant positive impacts on: personal safety; housing quality; mental health and obesity among adults; and mental health, delinquency, and risky behavior among teenage girls.  There are, however, apparently some negative effects on boys' behavior, and no statistically significant effects on employment outcomes for adults or educational achievement for children. Only marginal improvements were found in the quality of schools attended.  


This research is based in on work supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Institute of Child Health and Development and the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-HD40404 and R01-HD40444), the National Science Foundation (0091854, 9876337, and 9513040), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the W.T. Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of  the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders.


Kling, Jeffrey.  "Recent MTO Research."  Moving To Opportunity Research. 

Created February 24, 2004.  Last modified June 23, 2005


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