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

Jeffrey R. Kling


The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration is a randomized housing mobility experiment in which families living in high poverty U.S. public housing projects in five cities were given vouchers to help them move to private housing units in lower-poverty neighborhoods.  An “experimental” group was offered vouchers valid only in a low-poverty neighborhood; a “Section 8” group was offered traditional housing vouchers without geographic restriction; a control group was not offered vouchers. The sample for the study consisted largely of black and Hispanic female household heads with children.  Five years after random assignment, the families offered housing vouchers through MTO lived in safer neighborhoods that had significantly lower poverty rates as compared to the control group.  However, no significant effects were found on adult employment, earnings, or public assistance receipt – though the sample sizes were not sufficiently large to rule out moderate effects in either direction.  The study found significant mental health benefits of the MTO intervention for the experimental group, and in an analysis of physical health outcomes, the researchers found a significant reduction in obesity for the experimental group, but no significant effects on four other aspects of physical health (general health, asthma, physical limitations, and hypertension).

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