In Seattle, A Move Across Town Could Be A Path Out Of Poverty

Aug 5, 2019

By: Pam Fessler, NPR

Where children grow up can have a big impact on how well they do as adults. Good schools, safe streets, better environment — all can make a difference. The government has tried to use housing subsidies to encourage low-income families to move to better neighborhoods, but past efforts have fallen short. A new experiment in the Seattle area is showing some promise.

It involves providing financial and other incentives to encourage more poor families to relocate to what are called "high opportunity" areas. These are neighborhoods that have been identified by economist Raj Chetty, who runs Harvard University's Opportunity Insights program, as places where low-income children have grown up to have more successful lives, with higher earnings, more college degrees and fewer teen births.

Chetty's team, which includes researchers from Harvard, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere, is working with the Seattle and King County housing authorities to see if they can get families to move to these neighborhoods, with the hope that it will break the cycle of poverty.

The initial results indicate that the program is working. Families receiving the extra help were almost four times as likely to move to a high-opportunity area as those who did not — 54% compared with 14%.

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