Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects on Youth


We examine the effects of moving out of high-poverty neighborhoods on the outcomes of
teenage youth, a population often seen as most at risk from the adverse effects of such
neighborhoods. The randomized design of the Moving To Opportunity demonstration allows us
to compare groups of youth, initially similar and living in high-poverty public housing. An
“experimental” group was offered vouchers valid only in a low-poverty neighborhood; a
“Section 8” group was offered traditional vouchers without geographic restriction; and a control
group was not offered vouchers.
We study outcomes in four domains: education, risky behavior, mental health, and
physical health. Aggregating effect sizes over all of the outcomes, females in both treatment
groups benefited from the moves, while males in both treatment groups experienced worse
outcomes. Females in the experimental group experienced improvements in education and
mental health and were less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Females in the traditional
voucher group experienced improvements in mental health. Males in both treatment groups were
more likely than controls to engage in risky behaviors and to experience physical health
problems. We adopt a multiple-testing framework to account for the large number of estimates
considered. We show that the overall effects on females in the experimental group and the
effects on mental health for females in both treatment groups were least likely to be due to
sampling variation.
Families with female children and families with male children moved to similar
neighborhoods, suggesting that their outcomes differ not because of exposure to different types
of neighborhoods but because male and female youth respond to their environments in different

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