Publications

  • Does Gentrification Displace Poor Children? New Evidence from New York City Medicaid Data

    This paper by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Sherry Glied, and Kacie Dragan examines gentrification’s impact on the displacement of low-income families. While many see this relationship as causal, existing quantitative evidence is lacking, partly due to limited data and challenges in measurement. This paper examines the relationship between the frequency and distance of low-income families’ residential moves, as well as the housing and neighborhood conditions in which they live. Using longitudinal New York City Medicaid records, the authors track the movement and compare the outcomes of low-income children from 2009 through 2015, a seven-year period in which the city experienced high levels of gentrification, distinguishing between children who move and those that remain in place.

  • Laboratories of Regulation: Understanding the Diversity of Rent Regulation Laws

    Debates about rent regulation are not known for their nuance. The world tends to divide into fierce opponents and strong supporters. Moreover, debates rarely engage with the details of local ordinances, even though those details may significantly affect outcomes for tenants, landlords, and broader housing markets. This paper catalogs the multiplicity of choices that local policymakers must make in enacting and implementing rent regulation ordinances and consider the implications those choices may have for tenant protections and broader market outcomes. This paper then highlights the wide variety of regimes that jurisdictions with rent regulation have adopted in practice. It ends with a call for new empirical research to study the effects of different regulatory features.

  • Localized Commercial Effects from Natural Disasters: The Case of Hurricane Sandy and New York City

    This paper considers the localized economic impacts of an extreme event, Hurricane Sandy, on a dense and diverse economy, New York City. It isolates establishments that are more dependent on local customers--retail establishments--to test whether or not they are more vulnerable to hurricane-induced flooding than other entities with geographically dispersed consumer bases. The paper exploits variation in micro-scale exposure to pre-storm risk and post-storm inundation to identify the impact of storm-induced flooding on establishment survival, employment and sales revenues. Results indicate that the neighborhood economic losses from Sandy were significant, persistent, and concentrated among retail businesses that tend to serve a more localized consumer base.

  • Supply Skepticism:  Housing Supply and Affordability

    Growing numbers of affordable housing advocates and community members are questioning the premise that increasing the supply of market-rate housing will result in housing that is more affordable. This article is meant to bridge the divide, addressing each of the key arguments supply skeptics make and reviewing what research has shown about housing supply and its effect on affordability. It ultimately concludes, from both theory and empirical evidence, that adding new homes moderates price increases and therefore makes housing more affordable to low- and moderate-income families. It also emphasizes that new market-rate housing is necessary but not sufficient, and that government intervention is critical to ensure that supply is added at prices affordable to a range of incomes.

  • 21st Century SROs: Can Small Housing Units Help Meet the Need for Affordable Housing in New York City?

    Single-room occupancy housing (SROs) used to be a readily available affordable housing type in New York City. During the second half of the 20th century, many SROs came to serve as housing of last resort, and mounting criticism of SROs led to laws banning their construction and discouraging their operation. Today, New York City faces a significant housing affordability crisis. In this context, it is worth considering whether the city needs an updated housing model that helps meet the need SROs filled in the last century. Here we analyze the benefits, risks, and challenges of reintroducing small housing units (self-contained micro units and efficiency units with shared facilities) in order to shed light on whether and how a new small-unit model could help meet the demand for affordable housing in the city today.

  • Airbnb Usage Across New York City Neighborhoods: Geographic Patterns and Regulatory Implications

    This paper offers new empirical evidence about actual Airbnb usage patterns and how they vary across neighborhoods in New York City. We combine unique, census-tract level data from Airbnb with neighborhood asking rent data from Zillow and administrative, census, and social media data on neighborhoods. We find that as usage has grown over time, Airbnb listings have become more geographically dispersed, although centrality remains an important predictor of listing location. Neighborhoods with more modest median household incomes have also grown in popularity, and disproportionately feature “private room” listings (compared to “entire home” listings). We find that compared to long-term rentals, short-term rentals do not appear to be as profitable as many assume, and they have become relatively less profitable over our time period. Additionally, short-term rentals appear most profitable relative to long-term rentals in outlying, middle-income neighborhoods. Our findings contribute to an ongoing regulatory conversation catalyzed by the rapid growth in the short-term rental market, and we conclude by bringing an economic lens to varying approaches proposed to target and address externalities that may arise in this market. 

  • What Do We Know About Housing Choice Vouchers?

    Four decades after its creation, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest low-income housing subsidy program managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This literature review covers what we know and don’t know about the Housing Choice Voucher Program. 

    Research shows that vouchers reduce the rent burdens of low-income households, allow them to live in less crowded homes, and help them to avoid homelessness. The program has been less successful, however, in getting recipients to better neighborhoods and schools, and perhaps the greatest disappointment of the program is its limited reach. Families wait for years in most places to receive a voucher, and only one in four households eligible for a voucher nationally receives any federal housing assistance. Further, a significant minority of households who receive vouchers never use them, in part because of the difficulty of finding willing landlords with acceptable units. Thus, as effective as the program is, there is still much to learn about its operation and how we might improve it.

  • Planning For An Uncertain Future: Can Multi-Criteria Analysis Support Better Decision-Making In Climate Planning?

    This paper by Ingrid Gould EllenJessica YagerMelinda Hanson, and Luke Bo'sher, published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, examines how multicriteria analysis (MCA), a decision-making tool, compares to other commonly used tools for making decisions about climate-change planning. The authors find that MCA has the potential to perform better than cost benefit analysis and working group approaches in supporting decision making processes that are more participatory, transparent, comprehensive, rigorous, and scenario-driven (five principles of effective planning). The paper also explores the ways in which MCA might fall short of these principles in practice, including when planners have limited resources.

  • Why Don’t Housing Voucher Recipients Live Near Better Schools? Insights from Big Data

    This paper by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Keren Mertens Horn, and Amy Ellen Schwartz, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, uses administrative data to explore why voucher households do not live near to better schools, as measured by school-level proficiency rates. It seeks to shed light on whether voucher households are more likely to move toward better schools when schools are most relevant, and how market conditions shape that response. The authors find that families with vouchers are more likely to move toward a better school in the year before their oldest child meets the eligibility cutoff for kindergarten. Further, the magnitude of the effect is larger in metropolitan areas with a relatively high share of affordable rental units located near high-performing schools and in neighborhoods in close proximity to higher-performing schools. Results suggest that, if given the appropriate information and opportunities, more voucher families would move to better schools when their children reach school age.

  • Desvinculado y Desigual: Is Segregation Harmful to Latinos?

    Despite the high levels of metropolitan area segregation experienced by Latinos, there is a lack of research examining the effects of segregation on Latino socio-economic outcomes and whether those effects differ from the negative effects documented for African Americans. The authors find that segregation is consistently associated with lower levels of educational attainment and labor market success for both African-American and Latino young adults compared to whites, with associations of similar magnitudes for both groups. One mechanism through which segregation may influence outcomes is the difference in the levels of neighborhood human capital to which whites, Latinos, and African Americans are exposed. The authors find that higher levels of segregation are associated with lower black and Latino neighborhood exposure to residents with college degrees, relative to whites. They also find support for other commonly-discussed mechanisms, such as exposure to neighborhood violent crime and the relative proficiency of the closest public school.