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What Do Randomized Studies of Housing Mobility Reveal?

The idea that living in bad neighborhoods intensifies the adverse consequences of poverty is an old one. Recently, it has witnessed a resurgence of interest and over the last 15 years social scientists have generated a large literature on neighborhood effect using observational studies. Dissatisfaction with such studies as well as the evidence from quasi-experimental studies such as the Gatreaux program led to a greater interest in using randomized studies of residential mobility to estimate neighborhood effects. This paper looks at the MTO demonstrations which have been generating a great deal of interest and many analyses, and examines in greater detail what we do and do not learn from these studies, and what policy implications these studies might or might not have.