HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 11-259
Donna White
(202) 708-0685
For Release
November 2, 2011

Results from a HUD housing mobility study released at "How Housing Matters" Conference

WASHINGTON - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius participated in a keynote discussion today on the intersections between housing and health policy as part of the How Housing Matters Conference, co-sponsored by HUD's Office of Policy Development & Research, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the National Building Museum.

It was a day-long conference that explored the latest research and cross-disciplinary policies to connect safe, stable housing to innovative education, health and economic development services for families. The two Secretaries discussed Obama Administration priorities that speak to interagency collaboration to develop place-based strategies to support local communities in obtaining the tools they need to revitalize neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity.

"Today's conversation was about how HUD, HHS and other agencies can continue to deepen the connection between housing and community development and health policy to improve the lives of families," said HUD Secretary Donovan. "Research is continuing to show that housing is a public health intervention and a platform for improving the quality of life."

"Health care is not only about what happens in the doctor's office or hospital. Good health begins in the home and the community," said HHS Secretary Sebelius. "Our agencies share a commitment to creating safe, healthy environments for people to live, learn, work and play. Across the government, and with public and private partners represented at today's conference, we're moving toward a focus on wellness and prevention to ensure every American has the opportunity to live their healthiest life possible."

Among the discussion topics were results from HUD's Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Program: Final Impacts Evaluation Study (MTO Study) ( released today.

The MTO Study is HUD's longest and most wide-ranging randomized research project. It tested the long-term impacts of the opportunity to move to low-poverty neighborhoods.

Approximately 4,600 very low-income families living in public housing projects in high-poverty neighborhoods in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York enrolled in the demonstration. 

Key findings from the study show:

  • Assisting very poor families to live in neighborhoods with lower poverty and crime 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 translate into a number of important improvements in mental and physical health for adults, including lower rates of extreme obesity, diabetes, psychological distress, and major depression for adult women.

  • Female youth in the experimental group had lower prevalence of mood disorder, and fewer serious emotional or behavioral difficulties. Male youth showed no similar benefits from moving. Impacts on risky and criminal behavior of youth were mixed: Male youth in families given the opportunity to move were more likely to smoke but less likely to have been arrested for drug sales; female youth in the experimental group were less likely to have tried alcohol; most other outcomes did not differ significantly from the control group.

  • The study also shows no apparent impact on employment and earnings for adults or their now grown children as a result of the move to lower poverty neighborhoods 12 to 15 years earlier. The study also showed no impact on educational achievement among either male or female youth

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) conducted the study for HUD. Lawrence Katz, the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University and NBER Research Associate, was the principal investigator and Jens Ludwig, the McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law, and Public Policy at the University of Chicago and NBER research associate, was the project director.

While HUD directed the research, support for the study came from a range of government and philanthropic sources, including the National Science Foundation, National Bureau of Economic Research, the University of Chicago's Center for Health Administration Studies, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Opinion Research Center's Population Research Center, the U.S. Department of Education/Institute of Education Sciences, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

HUD began the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Program in 1994 to examine the effect of neighborhood on low-income families with children. Between 1994 and 1998 families were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the experimental group, which allowed families to only use the voucher in low-poverty neighborhoods; the Section 8 group, which allowed the families to use the voucher in any neighborhood; and the control group, which did not receive vouchers. All families had the option of remaining in their current neighborhood. HUD tracked and interviewed the families until 2010.

During the study years, HUD released a number of analyses that revealed experiences of MTO participants. In 2003, HUD released "The Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Interim Impacts Evaluation" (


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Content Archived: July 25, 2017