Credit: Getty Images / Denis Tangney Jr
*This piece was originally published on November 1st, 2019*
Breaking the cycle of poverty may seem like an impossible task, but the findings of a landmark social experiment tell a different story.
Back in the mid-1990s, a program called(MTO) gave some families, living in public housing projects in five large cities, vouchers and additional assistance to move to low-poverty neighborhoods. , a professor of economics at Harvard University and the principal investigator of the long-term evaluation of the initiative, explains why the ten-year results were surprising - and the twenty-year results may have been more surprising still. He also discusses encouraging from an experiment in the Seattle area that helps low-income families move to neighborhoods with better opportunities and outcomes for children.
- Katz says neighborhood environments are “incredibly important” for children’s lives and especially their futures. The very youngest people in the experiment, who spent the most time living in safer neighborhoods, . These children were more likely to eventually attend college and much less likely to be teen parents. They also went on to earn over 30 percent more than those who hadn’t moved. Over time, the additional taxes that will be collected on their larger incomes are expected to more than make up for the costs of the MTO program.
- Some of the early findings from the experiment were disappointing. The adults who moved to better neighborhoods didn’t get better jobs or earn greater incomes, and the children didn’t typically perform better on standardized tests. It wasn’t until the youngest participants in the program had grown up and a , that the positive and lasting effects were understood.
- Evidence from MTO and the new experiment in the Seattle area shows that expanding and targeting housing assistance (including help with moving costs) towards low-income families with young children would prove highly beneficial, according to Katz.
- Find out more about the research from the Seattle area program, (CMTO) which helps low-income families who receive housing vouchers find homes in so-called “high-opportunity” areas, and read about .
- NPR reports on why “ .”
- Learn more about the Morris family and that pre-dated MTO and helped them move from a blighted public housing project in Chicago to a home in the suburbs.
- Read about what happened to who participated in the MTO program.