neighborhood effects; social experiment; mixed methods


The Moving To Opportunity randomized housing voucher demonstration finds virtually no significant
effects on employment or earnings of adults. Using qualitative data from in-depth, semi-structured
interviews with 67 participants in Baltimore, we find that although the voucher and control groups have
similar rates of employment and earnings, respondents’ relationship to the labor market does differ by
program group. Our analysis suggests that the voucher group did not experience employment or earnings
gains in part because of human capital barriers that existed prior to moving to a low-poverty
neighborhood. In addition, employed respondents in all groups were heavily concentrated in retail and
health care jobs. To secure or maintain employment, they relied heavily on a particular job search strategy
– informal referrals from similarly skilled and credentialed acquaintances who already held jobs in these
sectors. Though experimentals were more likely to have employed neighbors, few of their neighbors held
jobs in these sectors and could not provide such referrals. Thus controls had an easier time garnering
such referrals. Additionally, the configuration of the metropolitan area’s public transportation routes in
relationship to the locations of hospitals, nursing homes, and malls posed additional transportation
challenges to experimentals as they searched for employment – challenges controls were less likely to

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Turney, K., Clampet-Lundquist, S., Edin, K., Kling, J., & Duncan, G. (2006). Neighborhood Effects on Barriers to Employment: Results From a Randomized Housing Mobility Experiment in Baltimore. Retrieved from (Original work published March 2006)
Working Papers