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Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Program

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Abstract:

"Health Impacts of a Fair Housing Demonstration Include Less Adult Obesity."

Between 1994 and 1998 housing authorities in five U.S. cities—Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York—recruited 4,600 very low-income families living in public or private-assisted housing projects in the poorest neighborhoods to participate in the federal Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration. This randomized experiment, carried out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, offered families an opportunity to move out of their neighborhoods with either housing vouchers for use only in low-poverty (less than 10 percent) neighborhoods ("experimental group") or vouchers for Section 8 housing with no geographical restriction ("Section 8 group"). Section 8 is a federal housing assistance program for low-income individuals. A "control group" remained in public or other assisted housing. This report details the program's impacts, midway through the 10-year research period, on six domains (housing, health, educational achievement, youth delinquency, employment and household income). The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided funding to this demonstration for collection of data on indicators of participant health. Researchers found a significant reduction in the incidence of obesity among adults in the experimental group versus the control group. Obesity was reduced 11 percent among adults who moved from high-poverty to low-poverty neighborhoods. The program also significantly reduced psychological distress and depression and increased feelings of calm and peacefulness among adults in the experimental group versus the control group. There were no statistically significant effects on these health indicators for adults in the Section 8 group or for children in both groups.