Subsidized Housing Improves Adulthood Outcomes for Teenage Recipients
Childhood Housing and Adult Outcomes: A Between-Siblings Analysis of Housing Vouchers and Public Housing
Henry O. Pollakowski, Daniel H. Weinberg, Fredrik Andersson, John C. Haltiwanger, Giordano Palloni, Mark J. Kutzbach
- Publication Date:
Access to safe, stable housing improves life outcomes across many metrics, including educational attainment, health and well-being, and economic mobility. This has been one key motivator for many advocates to push for increased federal housing assistance for households with low incomes. Yet because of data and modeling limitations, research on the long-term economic effects on children whose families received this kind of housing assistance has been lacking.
Two of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) largest subsidized housing programs are housing choice vouchers (HCVs) and public housing. In response to the dearth of existing research, this study’s authors sought to understand how these programs shape adult economic and incarceration outcomes of children whose households participated in these programs.
The authors combined microdata from the 2000 and 2010 Decennial Censuses with data on assisted housing participation from 1997 to 2005 from the Public and Indian Housing Information Center, and data on household earnings from the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Infrastructure Files. The resulting dataset allowed them to observe assisted housing participation for approximately 282,000 teenagers (ages 13 to 18 in the year 2000). They employed a household fixed effects model, which allowed them to compare the outcomes between siblings from the same family who lived for different amounts of time in subsidized housing.
- Additional time spent in public housing and HCV-assisted housing between the ages of 13 and 18, relative to unsubsidized housing, led to positive and statistically significant effects on earnings at age 26 for both males and females.
- Simple regressions comparing children in subsidized versus unsubsidized housing find that living in subsidized housing is associated with a substantial negative effect on earnings as an adult. But the authors find that these regressions do not account for how assisted housing programs intentionally target disadvantaged beneficiaries. Their use of between-siblings estimates show that within households, spending more time in subsidized housing has positive effects.
- Each additional year of household HCV participation increased earnings at age 26 by 4.8 percent for female teenage recipients and by 2.7 percent for male teenage recipients.
- Each additional year in public housing increased earnings at age 26 by 6.2 percent for female teenage recipients and by 6.1 percent for male teenage recipients.
- For both public housing and HCV-assisted housing, receiving housing assistance at an earlier age and until a later age were associated with higher earnings at age 26 (i.e., longer program participation during one’s teenage years was correlated with higher earnings in adulthood).
- Public housing or HCV-assisted housing residence in childhood led to statistically significant improved earnings outcomes for all studied racial groups (Black, Hispanic, and white) and sexes (male, female), except for white female participants.
- Additional time in public housing and HCV-assisted housing between ages 13 and 18, relative to unsubsidized housing, led to statistically significant reductions in incarceration outcomes.
- Each additional year of household HCV participation between ages 13 and 18 reduced the likelihood of incarceration in 2010 by 0.4 percentage points for females and by 0.1 percentage points for males.
- Each additional year in public housing between ages 13 and 18 reduced the likelihood of incarceration in 2010 by 0.5 percentage points for females and by 0.3 percentage points for males.
- The authors find no evidence that children who grow up in HCV-assisted housing have better outcomes as adults than those who grow up in public housing, despite the greater neighborhood choice offered by HCVs. They hypothesize that households receiving HCVs may be unlikely to move to appreciably better neighborhoods without additional assistance, but the authors emphasize the need for future research to better understand how local rental markets and the location of public housing affect life outcomes.
- Subsidized housing programs—in particular, public housing and HCVs—improve later-life outcomes of teenagers who participate in these programs.
- More research is needed to understand the effects of other subsidized housing programs, like the low-income housing tax credit. Further research should also investigate the impacts of receiving subsidized housing in early childhood in addition to during one’s teenage years.
- Due to funding constraints, many people who qualify for subsidized housing based on income do not receive it. This research underscores the importance of increased funding for subsidized housing, particularly to improve life outcomes for children in families with low incomes.