The Long-Term Impact of Moving Families Away From High-Poverty Neighborhoods

Monday, May 4, 2015

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) embarked on a 10-year demonstration and research project called Moving to Opportunity (MTO). This experimental program was designed to measure the long-term effects of moving families away from neighborhoods with deeply concentrated poverty to low-poverty environments and to gauge the impact these moves had on the overall well-being of these families. Today, the New York Times ( published an article on the research findings of Harvard University Professors Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz, "The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children." This study relies upon HUD and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data to measure a number of the long-term outcomes of children in this demonstration who grew into adulthood.  The authors found that, in fact, children who moved to low-poverty neighborhoods when they were young are doing better as adults, with significantly higher earnings and a greater likelihood of having attended college.

The body of research on HUD's Moving to Opportunity demonstration shows that adult women who move to lower poverty neighborhoods have large reductions in depression, anxiety, obesity, and diabetes. Moving to lower poverty neighborhoods provided children positive mental health benefits for girls, but there were negative mental and behavioral health effects for boys, a finding supported by other studies. There were no significant improvement in school outcomes for children, a disappointing outcome.

Findings from this new study, along with HUD's own research, support the Department's current policy direction of fostering opportunities for economic mobility while also investing in place-based strategies that revitalize distressed neighborhoods. In addition, HUD will shortly propose a new policy to increase the options HUD-assisted families have in selecting safe and decent rental housing in lower poverty neighborhoods of their choice. 

Today, HUD Secretary Julián Castro issued the following statement:

"This research underscores the importance of HUD's mission to build strong communities where folks can thrive. Every day, we invest in people, in the places they live, and in giving folks the choice of moving to neighborhoods that better fit their needs. HUD has long believed that concentrated poverty helps to perpetuate patterns of segregation and a lifetime of lost opportunities for residents in high-poverty neighborhoods. We are using data and evidence to improve our policies and to expand opportunities that benefit residents, the broader community and economy."

Read more about the new research and HUD's efforts to promote economic mobility. (


Content Archived: March 17, 2017