The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing Demonstration was a unique housing mobility demonstration that tested whether offering housing vouchers to families living in public housing projects in high-poverty neighborhoods of large cities could improve their lives and the lives of their children by allowing them to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods. It was the first random-assignment social science experiment designed to identify the causal effects of moving from high-poverty to lower-poverty neighborhoods. The demonstration looked at impacts on employment, income, educational achievement, and social well-being of low-income families.
Between 1994 and 1998, families living in high-poverty public and assisted housing in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City who applied for MTO were randomly assigned into two treatment groups and one control group. Families assigned to the treatment groups were provided Section 8 vouchers to allow them to move out of the high poverty developments. Families in one of the treatment groups received intensive mobility counseling and were required to lease a unit in a neighborhood with less than ten percent poverty. The other treatment group families could lease a unit wherever they chose, but only received the normal housing authority counseling. Families in the control group did not receive any Section 8 assistance but continued to receive project-based assistance.
The findings of MTO highlight the complexity of issues facing low-income families in urban areas and the positive role housing mobility programs can play in expanding access to low-poverty neighborhoods. Although MTO did not improve outcomes across all measured indicators, it did provide expanded access to neighborhoods where residents felt safer, experienced higher levels of neighborhood satisfaction, and thought housing conditions were better. The benefit of living in these neighborhoods was observed in positive health outcomes for females relative to the control group.
Moving to a lower-poverty neighborhood, however, did not lead to more positive employment outcomes for adults and grown children, nor did it improve education outcomes for youth. These findings indicate that barriers to employment (at least for this population) may be based more on skill development and education rather than proximity to employment opportunities, and that moving to neighborhoods with lower poverty rates does not necessarily equate to increased access to higher quality schools or improvements in educational achievement.
This report presents the long-term impacts of the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration on housing and neighborhood conditions, physical and mental health, economic self-sufficiency, risky and criminal behavior, and educational outcomes.
The Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration Interim Impacts Evaluation provides insights into what benefits can be achieved by improving the neighborhoods of poor families. The results presented in this report show the impacts of moving to lower poverty approximately 5-years after the move.
This report is part of the MTO interim evaluation. It is based on in-depth interviews conducted in early 2001 with adults and children in each of the five cities where MTO operated. These interviews were designed to expand on the main evaluation design, exploring in more depth the participants’ experiences with MTO and the nature of the mediating factors that can influence outcomes for participants.
Written after HUD completed the enrollment and lease-up phases of the MTO demonstration, this report concludes that allowing residents to move from highly concentrated areas of poverty leads to wider opportunities for themselves and their children.
This training manual provides information on data collection, random assignment software, record-keeping, and administrative procedures.
To support a study of the implications of MTO for children, a short baseline instrument was designed. This document provides a summary of survey questions, as well as rationales for including the items in the baseline survey.
This report looks at the origins and design of the MTO demonstration, its implementation process, implementation at each of the five demonstration sites, characteristics and motivations of families who applied to participate in MTO, and services provided and the costs of those services.
This guidebook is intended to assist the five site agencies in implementing MTO. As a training, reference, and operations guide, it describes the required procedures for implementation. It also establishes the framework for oversight by HUD and specifies the content and process of monitoring that will take place during the demonstration.
This report describes and analyzes the counseling done under the MTO demonstration. Delivered by local nonprofit organizations, the counseling assisted some MTO families to move to private rental housing in low-poverty communities, with Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance.
This is a request for an extension of clearance previously granted by OMB for annual canvass instruments for the MTO program.
This piece by former PD&R Assistant Secretary Katherine M. O’Regan responds to a series of questions about the MTO demonstration, subsequent non-HUD research that relied upon data from the MTO demonstration, and what it means for HUD policy and practice.
- The Prospects for Guiding Housing Choice Voucher Households to High-Opportunity Neighborhoods (2010)
- Moving to Opportunity: An Experiment in Social and Geographic Mobility (2001)
- Moving to Opportunity (2012)
- Driving to Opportunities: Voucher Users, Cars, and Movement to Sustainable Neighborhoods (2015)
- Transportation Access, Residential Location, and Economic Opportunity: Evidence from Two Housing Voucher Experiments (2015)
HUD Press Release
Click here for various sources of MTO data.