The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children: New Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment

Am Econ Rev. 2016 Apr;106(4):855-902. doi: 10.1257/aer.20150572.


The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment offered randomly selected families housing vouchers to move from high-poverty housing projects to lower-poverty neighborhoods. We analyze MTO's impacts on children's long-term outcomes using tax data. We find that moving to a lower-poverty neighborhood when young (before age 13) increases college attendance and earnings and reduces single parenthood rates. Moving as an adolescent has slightly negative impacts, perhaps because of disruption effects. The decline in the gains from moving with the age when children move suggests that the duration of exposure to better environments during childhood is an important determinant of children’s long-term outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Birth Rate
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Illegitimacy
  • Income*
  • Marriage
  • Poverty*
  • Pregnancy
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Determinants of Health* / economics
  • Social Determinants of Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Mobility*
  • United States
  • Young Adult