This report presents the long-term impacts of a unique housing mobility demonstration, Moving to Opportunity, on housing and neighborhood conditions, physical and mental health, economic self-sufficiency, risky and criminal behavior, and educational outcomes.
This in-depth report describes a study on the long-term impacts of the housing mobility demonstration, called Moving to Opportunity (MTO). MTO was the first random-assignment social science experiment designed to identify the causal effects of moving from high-poverty to lower-poverty neighborhoods on the social, economic and educational prospects, risky and criminal behavior, health, and well-being of low-income families. The study sought to determine whether moving to a lower-poverty neighborhood itself, rather than some other characteristic of the individuals or families that might be related to their propensity to move and their behavioral outcomes, directly caused improvements in health, economic security, or some other outcome of interest. The results showed that MTO moves led to sustained improvements in housing quality and in many aspects of the neighborhood’s environment, including neighborhood socioeconomic composition and safety. These MTO-induced changes translated into several important improvements in mental and physical health for adults, including lower rates of extreme obesity, diabetes, psychological distress, and major depression. MTO had no detectable impacts on work, earnings, or other economic outcomes for adults. For youth, the authors saw some signs of the same gender difference in responses to MTO as were found in the interim study, which reported on outcomes measured four to seven years after random assignment. One outcome for which the authors saw some hints of beneficial MTO impacts on male youth was a reduction in illegal drug selling.