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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Re-Examining the Moving to Opportunity Study and its contribution to changing the distribution of poverty and ethnic concentration


For the past decade and a half there has been a concerted effort to determine if policy interventions in residential location can solve the problems of inner city poverty and racial concentration. Studies based on data from the Gautreaux litigation and the HUD sponsored Moving to Opportunity (MTO) program have provided an overall optimistic interpretation of the possibilities of improving inner city lives with mobility vouchers and counseling. A re-analysis of the data from the MTO program focusing specifically on African American households suggests greater caution in the interpretation of the findings from either Gautreaux or the MTO program. There is no statistically significant difference between the percent of poor or the percent of black in the current neighborhoods between MTO and Section 8 experimental groups. In some cases there is no statistically significant difference between moves with vouchers and those who move without any assistance at all. Although there is some evidence that the MTO programs have brought specific gains for individual families, and there are quite significant geographic variability in outcomes, claims for the MTO program need to be treated with a great deal more caution than they have been to date.

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