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The Impact of Housing Assistance on Child Outcomes: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Lottery

November 2014

Brian Jacob, Max Kapustin, Jens Ludwig


The authors track a randomized sample of children ofChicago residents below the poverty line who received housing subsidies. Over the long term, they compare the sample that received housing subsidies with the population at large, measuring outcomes for the children of these households in three areas: education, involvement in crime, and health. They find that the receipt of a housing voucher had “little if any impact” on these children’s life chances as measured by those three criteria. While this may be surprising, considering that the voucher program was quite generous, it is in line with previous research.

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Policy Implications

The authors are quick to stress that the lack of improvement in the life outcomes of these children does not mean that cutting the social safety net would be without negative effects. However, if we are too truly improve children’s lives long term, it may be more efficient and effective to do so by investing directly in their lives, through schools, healthy food, etc., than through programs that only indirectly affect a child’s life over the long term, such as housing vouchers for his parents.

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