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Does Changing Neighborhoods Change Lives? The Chicago Gautreaux Housing Program and Recent Mobility Programs (WP-09-01)

James E. Rosenbaum and Stefanie DeLuca

Policy reforms try to improve education or employment while individuals remain in the same locations—these reforms often fail. Such policies may be fighting an uphill battle as long as individuals live in the same social contexts. Findings from Chicago’s Gautreaux Program suggest that residential mobility is a possible lever. By moving into more advantaged neighborhoods, with higher quality schools and better labor markets, mothers had improved employment and children had access to better educational settings and jobs. However, a subsequent mobility program (MTO) was conducted with a randomized field trial and child and family outcomes were more mixed. The researchers speculate about what kinds of moves and social settings are required to affect improved economic and social outcomes.

A shorter version of this working paper was published in:

Rosenbaum, J., and S. DeLuca. 2008. Does changing neighborhoods change lives? In Social Stratification, ed. D. Grusky, 393–99. Philadelphia: Westview.

James E. Rosenbaum, Professor of Sociology, Education, and Social Policy; and Fellow, Institute for Policy Research,  Northwestern University

Stefanie DeLuca, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University

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