MDRC in the News

America Has a Housing Segregation Problem. Seattle May Just Have the Solution.



Most American cities have a stark racial divide. In Seattle, the divide runs north to south: North Seattle is largely white; South Seattle is largely not.

And as is usually the case in the US, the racial divide is also an opportunity divide. The north is richer and has more expensive houses and higher-ranked schools than the south. Research released by a group of economists last year confirmed this impression in more detail. In some North Seattle neighborhoods (like Broadview), children who grew up there in the 1990s were earning average incomes of around $53,000 by their mid-30s. But if you went farther south, particularly to the Central District (the historic home of Seattle’s black community, pre-gentrification at least), you start to see averages more like $24,000, or $25,000, or $29,000…..

…..Now a new project, a continuation of those previous studies, seeks to use those lessons to improve American housing policy. A team of researchers — Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Larry Katz, Stefanie DeLuca, Peter Bergman, and Christopher Palmer — collaborated with the Seattle Housing Authority (which distributes Section 8 housing vouchers in the city) and the King County Housing Authority (which distributes them in surrounding suburbs) to try something new. [MDRC is one of the partners in the project]…..

…..So in Seattle, the researchers put a twist on the housing voucher system. For this experiment, a random subset of people receiving vouchers for the first time would get more than just the rental subsidy. They would also be given information on which neighborhoods promise the most opportunity for their kids, based on the research data. They’d also be assigned “navigators” whose job it was to walk them through the apartment application process, and receive additional financial assistance with down payments if necessary…..

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