Publications

  • 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.

  • Can Homeownership Transform Communities? Evidence on the Impact of Subsidized, Owner-Occupied Housing Investments on the Quality of Local Schools

    While recent evidence demonstrates that subsidized investments in owneroccupied housing can lead to increases in property values (Schwartz et al. 2006), the impact of such housing on other community amenities is largely unexamined. Yet, the response of local services to public investments is crucial for policy-makers and community development practitioners who view increasing subsidized homeownership as a mechanism to improve urban neighborhoods. Drawing on evidence from New York City, we examine the impact of subsidized housing on the quality of local schools by studying exogenous variation in city investments in owner and rental units. Specifically, we explore whether – and in what ways – publicly financed investments in owner- or renter-occupied housing made in the late 1980s and 1990s by the City of New York affected the characteristics and performance of local public schools. Our results suggest that the completion of subsidized, owner-occupied housing is associated with a decrease in schools’ percentage of free lunch eligible students, an increase in schools’ percentage of white students, and controlling for these compositional changes, a positive change in pass rates on standardized reading and math exams.

  • Community Benefits Agreements: A New Local Government Tool or Another Variation on the Exactions Theme?

    Community benefits agreements (CBAs) are the latest in a long line of tools neighbors have used to protect their neighborhood from the burdens of development, and to try to secure benefits from the proposed development. This Article canvasses the benefits and drawbacks various stakeholders perceive CBAs to offer or to threaten, and reviews the legal and policy questions CBAs present. It recommends that local governments avoid the use of CBAs in land use approval processes unless the CBAs are negotiated through processes designed to ensure the transparency of the negotiations, the representativeness and accountability of the negotiators, and the legality and enforceability of the CBAs’ terms.

  • Creating a Metric of Educational Opportunities for Assisted Households

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s strategic plan identifies the use of “housing as a platform for improving quality of life” as one of its five strategic goals. It further establishes a sub-goal to improve educational outcomes and early learning and development for children in HUD-assisted housing. This paper is intended to advise HUD about how to use readily available data to create a metric for school quality. This metric is the measure of success in providing “access to schools scores at or above the local average” for children in assisted households. The researchers recommend a ratio that compares the test scores of the elementary schools nearest subsidized households to the test scores of other schools in that same county or metropolitan area, with perhaps a comparison to the schools nearest other renters or low-income households. Using this local-comparison ratio can overcome differences in state methodologies for evaluating schools, differences in homeownership rates across metropolitan areas, and differences in income levels. This score will allow HUD to identify metropolitan areas to target for mobility efforts and to track progress over time.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Determinants of the Incidence of Loan Modifications

    Loan modifications ensure that borrowers avoid foreclosure and save their credit record. These modifications are also beneficial to the neighborhoods in which these borrowers reside, preventing vacancies and high rates of turnover. This analysis looks at loan delinquency and repayment plan data from New York City borrowers to provide the strongest predictors of modifications or liquidation of property. In this paper, we answer key questions about loan modifications, including how the identity, property or neighborhood of the borrower affects the likelihood of receiving a modification. We also look at the role of residential segregation, as well as the identity of the loan’s servicer as an influence on variations in borrower access to loan modifications.

  • Differences in Neighborhood Conditions Among Immigrants and Native-Born Children in New York City

    In this paper we use a specially created data set for New York City to evaluate whether the context of children’s neighborhoods varies by their immigrant status, and, if so, whether the relationship between neighborhood context and immigrant status varies by children’s race and ethnicity. Overall, when compared to native-born children, immigrant children live in neighborhoods with higher rates of teenage fertility, and higher percentages of students in local schools scoring below grade level in math and of persons receiving AFDC, but lower rates of juvenile detention. However, further comparisons revealed that race/ethnicity is by far a more potent predictor of where children live than is immigrant status per se. Specifically, we find evidence of a hierarchy of access to advantageous neighborhoods, whereby native- and foreign-born white children have access to the most-advantaged neighborhoods while native-born black children consistently live in the least-advantaged neighborhoods, as measured by our four indicators. In between these extremes, the relative ranking of foreign-born black and native- and foreign-born Hispanic children varies, depending on the measure of the neighborhood context.

  • Do Homeowners Mark to Market? A Comparison of Self-reported and Estimated Market Home Values During the Housing Boom and Bust

    This paper examines homeowners’ self-reported values in the American Housing Survey and the Health and Retirement Study from the start of the recent housing price run-ups through recent price declines. It compares zip code level market-based estimates of housing prices to those derived from homeowners’ self-reported values. The paper shows that there are systematic differences which vary with market conditions and the amount of equity owners hold in their homes. When prices have fallen, homeowners systematically state that their homes are worth more than market estimates suggest, and homeowners with little or no equity in their homes state values above the market estimates to a greater degree. Over time, homeowners appear to adjust their assessments to be more in line with past market trends, but only slowly. The results suggest that underwater borrowers are likely to understate their losses and either may not be aware that their mortgages are underwater or underestimate the degree to which they are.

  • Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools?

    The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low-income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. This study explores whether low-income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. "Do Housing Choice Voucher holders live near good schools?" was published in the Journal of Housing Economics in March 2014.