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J Exp Criminol. 2013 Dec;9(4). doi: 10.1007/s11292-013-9189-9.

Long-term effects of the Moving to Opportunity residential mobility experiment on crime and delinquency.

Author information

1
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
2
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA lsanbonm@nber.or.
3
School of Education, University of California, 2056 Education Building, Mail Code 5500, Irvine, CA 92697, USA gduncan@uci.edu.
4
Institute of Human Development and Social Change, New York University and National Bureau of Economic Research, 246 Greene Street, Floor 6E, New York, NY 10003, USA gennetl@nber.org.
5
Department of Economics, Harvard University and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA lkatz@harvard.edu.
6
Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, 180 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA kessler@hcp.med.harvard.edu.
7
Congressional Budget Office and National Bureau of Economic Research, 2nd and D streets, SW, Washington, DC 20515, USA jeffrey_kling@nber.org.
8
University of Chicago and National Bureau of Economic Research, 1155 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA jludwig@uchicago.edu.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Using data from a randomized experiment, to examine whether moving youth out of areas of concentrated poverty, where a disproportionate amount of crime occurs, prevents involvement in crime.

METHODS:

We draw on new administrative data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment. MTO families were randomized into an experimental group offered a housing voucher that could only be used to move to a low-poverty neighborhood, a Section 8 housing group offered a standard housing voucher, and a control group. This paper focuses on MTO youth ages 15-25 in 2001 (n = 4,643) and analyzes intention to treat effects on neighborhood characteristics and criminal behavior (number of violent- and property-crime arrests) through 10 years after randomization.

RESULTS:

We find the offer of a housing voucher generates large improvements in neighborhood conditions that attenuate over time and initially generates substantial reductions in violent-crime arrests and sizable increases in property-crime arrests for experimental group males. The crime effects attenuate over time along with differences in neighborhood conditions.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings suggest that criminal behavior is more strongly related to current neighborhood conditions (situational neighborhood effects) than to past neighborhood conditions (developmental neighborhood effects). The MTO design makes it difficult to determine which specific neighborhood characteristics are most important for criminal behavior. Our administrative data analyses could be affected by differences across areas in the likelihood that a crime results in an arrest.

KEYWORDS:

Crime; Long-term impacts; Neighborhood effects; Poverty; Randomized experiment

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