Moving to opportunity: an experimental study of neighborhood effects on mental health

Am J Public Health. 2003 Sep;93(9):1576-82. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.9.1576.


Objectives: The health consequences of neighborhood poverty are a public health problem. Data were obtained to examine links between neighborhood residence and mental health outcomes.

Methods: Moving to Opportunity was a randomized, controlled trial in which families from public housing in high-poverty neighborhoods were moved into private housing in near-poor or nonpoor neighborhoods, with a subset remaining in public housing. At the 3-year follow-up of the New York site, 550 families were reinterviewed.

Results: Parents who moved to low-poverty neighborhoods reported significantly less distress than parents who remained in high-poverty neighborhoods. Boys who moved to less poor neighborhoods reported significantly fewer anxious/depressive and dependency problems than did boys who stayed in public housing.

Conclusions: This study provides experimental evidence of neighborhood income effects on mental health.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Housing / economics
  • Housing / standards
  • Humans
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Poverty Areas
  • Public Assistance
  • Residence Characteristics / classification*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology*