The Dream Revisited
Discussion 19: Public Housing and Deconcentrating Poverty

Discussion 19: Public Housing and Deconcentrating Poverty

May 2016

The nineteenth discussion debates what we should do about high-poverty, distressed public housing developments in light of recent research from the Moving to Opportunity Program about the costs of concentrated poverty.


  • From Public Housing to Vouchers: No Easy Pathway out of Poverty

    by Lawrence J. Vale, Nicholas F. Kelly

    Given the troubled history of HOPE VI, it is hardly surprising that policy makers and politicians are eager to find evidence that there might be better alternatives to project-based solutions. This helps explain the widespread attention given to a study released in May 2015 by economists Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz, which extended the analysis of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment and found later-in-life economic benefits for children who move out of public housing with vouchers before the age of 13. This creative and careful analysis represents a major contribution to the study of how neighborhoods impact the life-chances of children. However, as important as this study is, it has been taken to mean much more than the authors themselves actually claim. We believe that it is crucial to put the results of MTO in the broader context of poverty in the United States, as well as the actual choices facing policy makers.


  • Effects of Moving to Opportunity: Both Statistically and Socially Significant

    by Nathaniel Hendren

    In contrast to the portrayal of our results discussed in Vale and Kelly, we believe the impacts of giving families a voucher to move to a lower-poverty neighborhood on the adult outcomes of their young children are large—statistically, economically, and socially. The tradeoff between place-based and people-based policy is of fundamental importance, but unfortunately there is a dearth of empirical research that is required to assess this tradeoff. While future work will hopefully illuminate whether other policies can provide similar or greater benefits, MTO provides a useful benchmark against which alternative policies should be judged.

  • Moving (Both People and Housing) to Opportunity

    by john a. powell

    The evidence is now greater than ever that mobility strategies are the best way to improve individual and family life chances.  Life chances are shaped by many inputs. As such, many place-based strategies, such as reinvesting in public housing, are insufficient to transform the full range of resource deprivations that accrue in the lowest opportunity environments.  With the exception of renovating or rehabilitating public housing sited in neighborhoods with declining rates of poverty and improving conditions, physical investments simply won’t dramatically change individual and family life chances.  In contrast, mobility strategies, properly supported, show great promise.

  • Housing Policy is a Necessary but Insufficient Response to Concentrated Poverty

    by Robert J. Chaskin

    However important affordable housing is, we also need to examine the fundamental limitations of housing policy as a response to urban poverty. Researchers and policymakers should recognize the need for broader investment in neighborhoods themselves. Affordable housing development can be effectively coupled with broader efforts at community development, but even this broadened policy must be coupled with a renewed attack on the structural factors that create and reproduce urban poverty.

More Discussions

  • Discussion 26: Local Control, Affordable Housing, and Segregation

    This debate explores how local control in land use decision-making may influence the availability of affordable housing and contribute to economic and racial segregation. Featuring four essays from legal scholars, practitioners, and advocates, the new discussion weighs the potential benefits and drawbacks of “scaling up” the zoning process, and moving land use decision-making towards the city, state, or regional level.

    March 2019

  • Discussion 25: Health and Segregation

    The twenty-fifth discussion debates the significance of residential segregation as a social determinant of health and explores potential policy responses.

    October 2017

  • Discussion 24: Policing and Segregation

    The twenty-fourth discussion examines the links between policing practices such as “stop and frisk” and race and class segregation and explores potential policy responses.  

    July 2017

  • Discussion 23: Race, Segregation, and Politics

    The twenty-third discussion explores the impact of persistent racial segregation on political discourse and electoral outcomes in the United States.

    March 2017

  • Discussion 22: The Stubborn Persistence of Racial Segregation

    The twenty-second discussion explores the role of residential choices in sustaining segregation within American cities.

    December 2016

  • Discussion 21: Suburban Poverty & Segregation

    The twenty-first discussion explores the increasing diversity of suburbs and increasing levels of suburban poverty and debates the challenges of supporting poor households’ economic self-sufficiency beyond the central city.

    September 2016

  • Discussion 20: Making Vouchers More Mobile

    The twentieth discussion examines the benefits of defining fair market rent by zip code, to make it easier for families to move to higher-opportunity neighborhoods, and weighs potential unintended costs.

    July 2016

  • Discussion 18: Segregation & the Financial Crisis

    The eighteenth discussion debates the extent to which segregation exacerbated the unequal effects of the mortgage-driven financial collapse of 2007 and ways to address racial disparities in mortgage lending.

    February 2016

  • Discussion 17: Community Preferences and Fair Housing

    The seventeenth discussion debates the extent to which preferences in neighborhood residents in accessing new affordable housing promote or betray the goal of truly inclusionary communities. 

    November 2015

  • Discussion 16: A New Approach to Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

    The sixteenth discussion reacts to HUD’s renewed commitment to the new requirement of the Fair Housing Act to “affirmatively further fair housing.”

    November 2015

  • Discussion 15: Moving Up or Moving Out

    The fifteenth discussion explores the most effective ways to address concentrated poverty, focusing on policies that target both people and place.

    July 2015

  • Discussion 14: Housing Subsidies & Inclusive Communities

    The fourteenth discussion examines the policy issues underlying Texas vs. The Inclusive Communities Project: how government officials should balance the use of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) allocations to create affordable homes in low-poverty neighborhoods with the use of LIHTC allocations to catalyze economic development in high-poverty neighborhoods.

    June 2015

  • Discussion 13: The Future of the Fair Housing Act

    The thirteenth discussion debates the significant of disparate impact liability under the Fair Housing Act, in light of the Supreme Court's deliberation in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project.

    April 2015

  • Discussion 12: The Poor Door Debate

    The twelfth discussion weighs the controversy about "poor doors" in the context of a debate over the costs and benefits of mixed-income housing in high-cost markets.

    March 2015

  • Discussion 11: Explaining Ferguson Through Place and Race

    The eleventh discussion in The Dream Revisited explores how metropolitan development patterns shaped by race and class set the stage for the events in Ferguson, MO.

    January 2015

  • Discussion 10: Balancing Investments in People & Place

    The tenth discussion in the Dream Revisited debates the appropriate balance between investments to help low-income households move to neighborhoods that offer greater access to opportunity and investments to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods.

    November 2014

  • Discussion 9: Residential Income Segregation

    The ninth discussion in The Dream Revisited analyzes segregation by income and debates the significance of the increasing isolation of the affluent.

    November 2014

  • Discussion 8: Neighborhoods, Opportunities, and the Housing Choice Voucher Program

    The eighth discussion in The Dream Revisited explores how the federal Housing Choice Voucher program can most effectively improve social, educational, and economic opportunities for voucher recipients. 

    October 2014

  • Discussion 7: Comparative Perspectives on Segregation

    The seventh discussion in The Dream Revisited explores what can be learned by looking at racial and economic segregation through a comparative lens. 

    September 2014

  • Discussion 6: Implicit Bias and Segregation

    The sixth discussion explores how implicit bias contributes to residential segregation and whether or not awareness of implicit biases can heighten a sense of moral urgency.

    August 2014

  • Discussion 5: Place-Based Affirmative Action

    The fifth discussion explores proposals to re-imagine affirmative action by focusing on neighborhood disadvantage instead of race.

    July 2014

  • Discussion 4: Neighborhood Gentrification

    The fourth discussion explores the relationship between gentrification, neighborhood integration, and public participation.

    May 2014

  • Discussion 3: Ending Segregation: Our Progress Today

    The third discussion in The Dream Revisited asks why we haven't made more progress in reducing segregation. 

    April 2014

  • Discussion 2: Economic Segregation in Schools

    The second discussion on The Dream Revisited explores economic segregation in our schools and argues for its continued relevance today. 

    March 2014

  • Discussion 1: Why Integration?

    The first discussion in The Dream Revisited asks what we mean by "integration" and why it may be a necessary strategy to acheive racial and economic equality.

    January 2014