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Urban Poverty and Juvenile Crime: Evidence From a Randomized Housing-Mobility Experiment

NCJ Number
Quarterly Journal of Economics Volume: 116 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2001 Pages: 655-679
Jens Ludwig; Greg J. Duncan; Paul Hirschfield
Date Published
May 2001
25 pages
This study used data from a randomized housing-mobility experiment to analyze the effects on juvenile crime of relocating families from high-poverty to low-poverty neighborhoods.
Since 1994 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment has assigned 638 families from high-poverty Baltimore neighborhoods into 3 different "treatment groups." "Experimental group" families receive housing subsidies, counseling, and search assistance to move to private-market housing in low-poverty census tracts (poverty rates under 10 percent); "Section 8-only comparison group" families receive private-market housing subsidies with no program constraints on relocation choices; and a "control group" receives no special assistance under MTO. The randomized experimental design of MTO thus breaks the link between family residential preferences and adolescent outcomes and helps overcome the endogenous-membership problem found in previous studies. Study outcome measures came from juvenile arrest records obtained from the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice. Overall, the findings suggested that moving MTO families from high-poverty to low-poverty neighborhoods reduced juvenile involvement in violent crime. Although there remained some uncertainty about the mechanisms that underlie these effects, remarkably similar findings have been obtained for the Boston MTO site. Generalizing from these findings, however, was complicated by the fact that MTO participants were a self-selected group of public housing residents. Nevertheless, these results are suggestive that policies designed to change the spatial concentration of poverty in America may influence the overall volume of violent crime. 5 tables and 48 references