• Author: Katherine O’Regan ×
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  • American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?

    In recent years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has shifted resources from public housing to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV or “voucher”) program. There were 2.2 million vouchers nationwide in 2008, compared to 1.2 million public housing units. Although the academic and policy communities have welcomed this shift, community opposition to vouchers can be fierce, due to perceptions that voucher-holders will both reduce property values and heighten crime. Despite the public concerns, however, there is virtually no research that systematically examines the link between the presence of voucher holders in a neighborhood and crime. Our paper uses longitudinal, neighborhood-level crime and voucher utilization data in 10 large U.S. cities over 12 years, and finds voucher-holders moving to a neighborhood does not, in fact, increase crime. We do see, on the other hand, that households with vouchers tend to move to communities when crime rates are rising.

  • Gentrification: Perspectives of Economists and Planners

    Gentrification touches on issues at the core of the fields of urban economics, planning, and geography. This article aims to look across disciplines and review the literature on gentrification. It begins by discussing how gentrification is defined and understood by different researchers and assessing its importance or prevalence over time. It then contrasts the theoretical approaches used to explain the causes of gentrification in different fields. It focuses on different models used by economists on the one hand and planners, on the other. The economic models of neighborhood change focus more on market forces and individual choices, while planning and geography models emphasize class and politics. Following this, the article reviews the literature on the consequences of gentrification, summarizing the empirical evidence. Finally, it highlights what is still unknown about gentrification, in terms of the process and drivers, its consequences, and the role it might play in future urban revitalization.

  • Exploring Changes in Low-Income Neighborhoods in the 1990s

    While there has been much talk of the resurgence of lower-income urban neighborhoods in the United States over the past ten to fifteen years, there has been surprisingly little empirical examination of the extent and nature of the phenomenon. Our chapter aims to address these key questions. In the first half, we undertake a broad empirical investigation of income changes in low-income neighborhoods in U.S. cities during the 1990s, comparing them to the changes that occurred during the two previous decades. In the second half of the chapter, we explore some reasons why the fortunes of lower-income urban neighborhoods improved during the 1990s.

  • The Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Racial Segregation

    This paper addresses a critical but almost unexamined aspect of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program—whether its use (and in particular, the siting of developments in high poverty/high minority neighborhoods), is associated with increased racial segregation. Using data from HUD and the census, supplemented with data on the racial composition of LIHTC tenants in three states, we examine three potential channels through which the LIHTC could affect segregation: where LIHTC units are built relative to where other low income households live, who lives in these tax credit developments, and changes in neighborhood racial composition in neighborhoods that receive tax credit projects. The evidence on each of these channels suggests that LIHTC projects do not contribute to increased segregation, even those in high poverty neighborhoods. On net, we find that increases in the use of tax credits are associated with declines in racial segregation at the metropolitan level.

  • How Low Income Neighborhoods Change: Entry, Exit, and Enhancement

    The 1990s were a decade of economic improvement for low-income neighborhoods.  The number of high-poverty neighborhoods declined (Jargowsky, 2003), and the number of low-income neighborhoods experiencing a gain in average income greatly exceeded those experiencing a decline. In this study we have three research questions focused on neighborhoods that gain economically.  First, do we indeed find evidence of displacement, particularly among those with fewest resources?  Second, what are the sources of neighborhood income change? Are the sole sources of change selective entry and exit, or does incumbent upgrading also play a role?  And finally, what other changes accompany neighborhood income gains?

  • Neighborhood Crime Exposure Among Housing Choice Voucher Households

    The federal government increasingly relies on housing vouchers to make housing more affordable and hopefully enable low-income households to reach higher quality neighborhoods. This study analyzes the efficacy of the voucher program at achieving this goal, focusing on neighborhood crime. Using census tract-level crime and subsidized housing data from 91 large cities in 2000, the study compares neighborhood crime rates of voucher holders to those of public housing, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and unassisted poor renter households. Our paper finds that while voucher households resided in neighborhoods about as safe as that of poor renter households, and with much lower crime rates than those lived in by other subsidized households, the voucher households did not choose a lower poverty neighborhood. In addition, the study finds differences by race, which suggest that housing vouchers may be more effective helping black households reach safer neighborhoods than white and Hispanic households.

  • Crime and Urban Flight Revisited: The Effect of the 1990s Drop in Crime on Cities

    For most of the twentieth century, concerns about safety and high crime rates have beset U.S. cities. Researchers and policymakers pointed to these high urban crime rates as one of the chief ‘urban blights’ from which middle class, mobile (and typically white) households fled during the post-War period, fueling suburbanization. But this picture changed dramatically in the 1990s, a decade during which the crime rate in the U.S. fell by a remarkable thirty percent, and crime rates in many U.S. cities declined even further. This paper builds on the ‘flight from blight’ literature, and considers what effect (if any) the 1990s drop in crime rates had on urban population changes.

  • Siting, Spillovers, and Segregation: A Re-examination of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program

    As of the end of 2005, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program had allocated $7.5 billion in federal tax credits and supported the development of more than 1.5 million units. A growing number of advocates and observers worry that the LIHTC program, by failing to monitor the siting of developments and, more directly, by giving priority to developers building housing in  high-poverty areas, is furthering poverty and racial concentration. Yet, many community development organizations see the tax credit program as a central tool in their efforts to revitalize these high-poverty, urban neighborhoods. In this chapter, the authors try to inject some empirical evidence into this debate by examining the extent to which the tax credit program may have contributed to poverty concentration as well as to neighborhood revitalization.

  • Welcome to the Neighborhood: What can Regional Science Contribute to the Study of Neighborhoods?

    In this paper the authors argue that neighborhoods are highly relevant for the types of issues at the heart of regional science. First, residential and economic activity takes place in particular locations, and particular neighborhoods. Many attributes of those neighborhood environments matter for this activity, from the physical amenities, to the quality of the public and private services received. Second, those neighborhoods vary in their placement in the larger region and this broader arrangement of neighborhoods is particularly important for location choices, commuting behavior and travel patterns. Third, sorting across these neighborhoods by race and income may well matter for educational and labor market outcomes, important components of a region's overall economic activity. For each of these areas we suggest a series of unanswered questions that would benefit from more attention. Focused on neighborhood characteristics themselves, there are important gaps in our understanding of how neighborhoods change - the causes and the consequences. In terms of the overall pattern of neighborhoods and resulting commuting patterns, this connects directly to current concerns about environmental sustainability and there is much need for research relevant to policy makers. And in terms of segregation and sorting across neighborhoods, work is needed on better spatial measures. In addition, housing market causes and consequences for local economic activity are under researched. The authors expand on each of these, finishing with some suggestions on how newly available data, with improved spatial identifiers, may enable regional scientists to answer some of these research questions.

  • Crime and U.S. Cities: Recent Patterns and Implications

    For most of the twentieth century, U.S. cities – and their high-poverty neighborhoods in particular—were viewed as dangerous, crime-ridden places that middle class, mobile (and typically white) households avoided, fueling suburbanization. While some pundits and policy analysts bemoaned this urban flight, others voiced concern over the potential impact of crime-ridden environments on the urban residents who were left behind. In the past decade or so, the media has instead highlighted the dramatic reductions in crime taking place in many large cities. In this paper we explore these crime reductions and their implications for urban environments.