The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration in 1994 in five cities: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. MTO targeted families living in some of the nation’s poorest, highest-crime communities and used housing subsidies to offer them a chance to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods. Research on the families conducted in 2002 raised some important questions about the impact of the program. Findings from the follow up Three-City Study of MTO, in 2004 and 2005, answer some of the questions but also highlight the complexity of the MTO experience and the limitations of a relocation-only strategy in being able to bring about fundamental changes in the lives of very low income families.
The Moving to Opportunity program targeted families living in some of the nation’s poorest, highest-crime neighborhoods and offered them a chance to move to lower poverty areas. One hope was that, away from concentrated poverty and the risks associated with it – including poor physical and mental health, risky sexual behavior and delinquency – families would fare better. This brief examines how adolescent girls benefited from moving out of high poverty and discusses why girls might have fared so much better than boys.
Families in HUD’s Moving to Opportunity program had the chance to move to neighborhoods with lower poverty, lower crime rates and, presumably, more opportunities for employment, good schools and better quality of life. Did they benefit from the moves and did they remain there to continue those benefits? This brief identifies patterns of moving for MTO families and the characteristics of the neighborhoods both from and to which they moved.
One expected benefit of moving poor families from the concentrated poverty of some inner city neighborhoods to better, less poor neighborhoods, was that the children would attend better schools, with more resources and more advantaged peers who might be models for hard work and higher achievement. This brief looks at the schools MTO children attended after their move, how they did or did not differ from the schools in their pre-move neighborhoods, and what factors mattered to families choosing schools for their children.
Is there a correlation between exposure to racially integrated, low poverty areas and employment outcomes? Does moving from a poor, inner city neighborhood to a less poor area bring greater proximity to job opportunities, or contacts with new networks of neighbors who might steer movers to jobs? Does living in a community where more people work increase motivation to work or to increase income? In examining these questions for the MTO experimental movers, this brief finds that factors in addition to where people live affect their employment and earnings.
The federal Moving to Opportunity program (MTO) was designed to help poor minority families move from distressed, high poverty neighborhoods to better locations, thereby improving their quality of life and long term chances for well-being. Low income families living in concentrated poverty face a variety of challenges to their safety, health, and economic health, including poor schools, high crime and unemployment. This brief examines areas where the MTO program helped movers with those challenges, areas still problematic even after moving, and factors affecting those outcomes and considers policy implications for the next generation of assisted housing mobility initiatives.
MTO offered families living in concentrated poverty the chance to move to lower poverty areas, away from the high unemployment and high crime rates areas with the challenges and risks they present. This brief looks at whether the program was successful in helping families move away from those neighborhoods and stay away from them, noting both the reasons for subsequent moves and the characteristics of the neighborhoods to which they made those moves.