MDRC in the News

How a Section 8 Experiment Could Reveal a Better Way to Escape Poverty

CityLab

08/2019

Housing vouchers help millions of American families weather the crushing experience of poverty. With housing choice vouchers, low-income households receive federal aid to pay their rent. Also known as Section 8, the program has been a simple and effective alternative to America’s troubled experiment with public housing…..

…..A new study from Seattle, co-authored by economist Raj Chetty and led by his Harvard-based research team Opportunity Insights, offers a research framework for overcoming the barriers faced by voucher holders. [MDRC is one of Opportunity Insights’ partners in the project.] An experiment conducted by the researchers with public housing agencies in Seattle shows that just by adding a few additional services, implemented at low cost, vouchers can work much more effectively as a bridge to opportunity. The findings could point to a brighter future for low-income families, especially those headed up by single parents.

The results are impressive: The Seattle experiment, part of an ongoing project called Creating Moves to Opportunity, shows a 40 percent boost in the share of families with vouchers who were able to move to better neighborhoods…..

…..A voucher-mobility experiment can only tell so much about the actual, direct, lived experiences of the low-income families involved. To learn from families who have made the jump, the study also features a qualitative assessment. Many of the families who participated in the Seattle experiment also joined the qualitative study, an effort to figure out what worked and why…..

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