From 1994 to 1998 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave housing vouchers to more than 4,600 low-income urban families in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The Moving to Opportunity program allowed families to escape high poverty neighborhoods and move to housing in areas that were more economically viable, had better schools, and lower crime rates.
Follow-up studies of the children of these families were conducted between 10 and 15 years after the families moved out of the high poverty neighborhoods. The results of the follow-up studies found that the moves were highly beneficial for girls in these families but not so for boys. Girls showed reduced rates of depression and were less likely to get into trouble. But boys showed greater rates of depression, higher incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, and had more conduct disorders.
Jens Ludwig, the McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study, stated, “This work demonstrates that the effects of housing mobility interventions are more complicated than one might expect. For boys, the increase in PTSD is comparable to what you see from combat exposure among military veterans, while the reduction in depression among girls is equally massive.”
The authors of the study concluded that “qualitative evidence suggested these differences were due to girls profiting more than boys from moving to better neighborhoods because of sex differences in both neighborhood experiences and in the social skills needed to capitalize on new opportunities presented by their improved neighborhoods.”
The article, “Associations of Housing Mobility Interventions for Children in High-Poverty Neighborhoods With Subsequent Mental Disorders During Adolescence,” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It may be accessed here.