Examining the Mental Health Effects of a Housing Mobility Program by Vulnerable Subgroups: Who May Benefit, and Who May Not, from Moves to Low-Poverty Neighborhoods?

Theresa L. Osypuk, Northeastern University
Maria Glymour, Harvard School of Public Health

It is an important scientific and policy-relevant question whether certain types of families are better able to benefit from moves to better neighborhoods via housing mobility policies. We therefore tested for subgroup treatment effect differences with psychological distress in the Moving to Opportunity program, a social experiment randomizing low-income families to receive a section 8 voucher to move to low-poverty neighborhoods. We tested effect modification of treatment with mental health by household baseline variables, including health/disability, violent-crime victims, different household structures, socioeconomic status and ties to baseline neighborhoods. We found that girls and boys in families with baseline health/developmental problems, and with victims of violent crime, and from families with younger children at baseline, did not experience beneficial effects of the MTO program (for girls), and experienced harmful effects of the program (for boys). These results may inform programmatic changes to housing-mobility programs, to offset subgroup vulnerabilities.

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Presented in Session 171: Contextual Influences on Health and Mortality