Subsidized Housing and the Concentration of Poverty in the U.S

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Ann OWENS , Sociology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
For several decades, federal housing policy in the U.S. has been used to address issues of segregation in American cities. Since the 1970s, assisted housing policies aimed to integrate low-income renters into lower-poverty neighborhoods. New programs including housing vouchers, the demolition and redevelopment of public housing, and the use of new project-based developments were adopted with the expectation that they might lead to a decline in poverty concentration in U.S. cities. However, little is known about whether assisted housing policy has successfully reduced poverty concentration. Using national data, I test whether the geographic deconcentration of assisted housing units, which occurred as the new policies were implemented, led to a deconcentration of poverty in metropolitan areas from 1980 to 2005-09. Results show no relationship from 1980 to 2000. After 2000, assisted housing deconcentration is positively associated with poverty deconcentration, suggesting that deconcentrating assisted units allowed low-income families to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods, tempering rises in poverty concentration that occurred since 2000. However, the magnitude of the relationship was quite small, suggesting that the broad shift in housing policy over the past several decades has contributed little to the deconcentration of poverty in U.S. cities, despite substantially reducing the geographic concentration of assisted units. Potential explanations for this weak relationship include the small proportion of poor residents living in subsidized housing and impacts of new subsidized housing on the mobility of non-poor residents.