NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: ED500809
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar
Pages: 12
Abstractor: ERIC
Do Better Neighborhoods for MTO Families Mean Better Schools? Brief No. 3
Ferryman, Kadija S.; Briggs, Xavier de Souza; Popkin, Susan J.; Rendon, Maria
Urban Institute (NJ1)
For roughly half a century, policymakers and researchers have debated the impacts of place, and in particular of inner-city neighborhoods, on employment, education, and mental and physical health. Research on programs that help people move to better neighborhoods has suggested that such programs can improve the life chances of low-income, mostly minority adults and their children. One important way children might benefit is by having access to better schools. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration (MTO) in 1994 in five cities to try to improve the life chances of very poor families by helping them leave the disadvantaged environments that contribute to poor outcomes in education and employment. The demonstration targeted families living in some of the nation's poorest, highest crime communities (distressed public housing) and used housing subsidies to offer them a chance to move to lower poverty neighborhoods. The hope was that moving would provide these families with access to better schools, city services (police, parks, libraries, sanitation) and economic opportunities. Participation in MTO was voluntary. Those who volunteered were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: a control group, a comparison group, or an experimental group. MTO focused on moving families into better neighborhoods and was not specifically targeted at improving educational outcomes. However, based on the findings from a housing desegregation program, MTO program designers expected that if families moved to low poverty communities, children could have access to better, more resource-rich schools with more advantaged peers, and that this access might lead to the children working harder and achieving more. On the other hand, children who moved to new neighborhoods and schools might respond negatively to competition from more advantaged peers, or teachers might single out the newcomers for sanctions. Two early studies of families in the Baltimore and Boston sites one to three years after random assignment showed promising results for experimental movers, especially significant improvements in school quality. In Baltimore, there was also evidence of positive impacts on reading and math scores. Follow-up research on the entire sample of MTO families at all five sites was conducted in 2002, about five years after the MTO families moved. Contrary to expectations, the results from the interim follow-up showed that children in the MTO experimental group were, in fact, doing no better academically than children in the other treatment groups. In addition, there were only limited improvements in school quality across the five sites. These findings have led researchers to conclude that MTO failed to provide experimental-group participants with real access to high performing schools and without access to better schools, there is less reason to think that MTO might affect children's educational performance. The mostly qualitative Three-City Study of MTO, a large-scale, mixed-method study, was designed to examine key puzzles raised by the interim evaluation, including the lack of effects on children's educational outcomes. The study combined qualitative interviews, ethnographic fieldwork, and analysis of census and administrative data. It was conducted in three of the five MTO sites: the interviews and ethnographic fieldwork took place in 2004 and 2005, 6 to 10 years after families' initial placement through the MTO program. This brief uses data from the Three-City Study to explore factors that seem to have kept MTO participants, who succeeded in moving to safer, less poor neighborhoods, from accessing better schools. Analysis suggests both the potential and the limits of a relocation-only strategy to affect educational options and outcomes for disadvantaged children. (Contains 5 endnotes.) [This report was produced by the Urban Institute's Center on Metropolitan Housing and Communities.]
Urban Institute. 2100 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 202-261-5687; Fax: 202-467-5775; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Urban Inst., Washington, DC.
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A