Moving to Opportunity

Moving to Opportunity : The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty

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If bad neighborhoods are truly bad for children and families, especially the minority poor, can moving to better neighborhoods lead them to better lives? Might these families escape poverty altogether, beyond having a better quality of life to help them cope with being poor? Federal policymakers and planners thought so, on both counts, and in 1994, they launched Moving to Opportunity. The $80 million social experiment enrolled nearly 5,000 very low-income, mostly black and Hispanic families, many of them on welfare, who were living in public housing in the inner-city neighborhoods of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Yet five years after they had entered the program, many of the families in the favored experimental group had returned to high poverty neighborhoods. Young women showed big drops in risky behavior and big improvements in mental health, on average, while young male movers did not. The males even showed signs of increased delinquency if they had lived, at least for a time, in the low poverty areas. Parents likewise showed major drops in anxiety and depression-two of the crippling symptoms of being chronically poor in high-risk ghettos-but not in employment or income. And many movers appeared to be maintaining the same limited social circles-mostly disadvantaged relatives and close friends-despite living in more advantaged neighborhoods. The authors of this important and engaging new book wanted to know why. Moving to Opportunity tackles the great, unresolved question of how to overcome persistent ghetto poverty. It mines a unique demonstration program with a human voice, not just statistics and charts, rooted in the lives of those who signed up for MTO. It shines a light on the hopes, surprises, achievements and limitations of a major social experiment-and does so at a time of tremendous economic, social, and political change in our nation. As the authors make clear, for all its ambition, MTO is a uniquely American experiment, and this book brings home its lessons for policymakers and advocates, scholars, students, journalists, and all who share a deep concern for opportunity and inequality in our country.show more

Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0199741867
  • 9780199741861

About Xavier de Souza Briggs

Xavier de Souza Briggs is Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House and Associate Professor of Sociology and Urban Planning (on leave) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A sociologist by training, his award-winning research focuses on leadership and democratic institutions, inequality, and racial and ethnic diversity in cities. A former faculty member at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, his books include The Geography of Opportunity and Democracy as Problem Solving. He is founder and director of The Community Problem-SolvingProject @ MIT and Working Smarter in Community Development, two popular and innovative online resources for people and institutions worldwide, and his views have appeared in the New York Times, Salon.com, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, and other major media. Susan J. Popkin is Director of the Urban Institute's Program on Neighborhoods and Youth Development. She is a nationally recognized expert on assisted housing, mobility, and the "hard to house." Dr. Popkin is the lead author of The Hidden War, has written numerous papers and book chapters on housing and poverty-related issues, and is co-author of the recent book, Public Housing and The Legacy of Segregation. John Goering is a Professor at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College and is on the doctoral faculty of the City University of New York. He is the author or editor of seven books on housing, race and public policy. While at the Office of Policy Development and Research at HUD he helped design and implement MTO, and co-edited the first collection of analyses, Choosing a Better Life?, on this demonstration.show more

Review quote

"A brilliant, highly readable book...Briggs, Popkin, and Goering suggest a number of useful ideas for dealing with America's ghetto problem including family-strengthening programs and supportive housing for large numbers of ''hard-to-house'' families...a ''must read'' book for scholars and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic."--Journal of Housing and Built Environment"This book is not a purely academic tome filled with incomprehensible statistics; rather, it is more an ethnography and as such can be appreciated by students, faculty, and the general public. Summing Up: Highly recommended."--CHOICE"Moving to Opportunity insightfully reveals how the fight against ghetto poverty is more than just overcoming economic deprivation. It also involves improving safety and feelings of security and therefore increasing freedom from fear. A number of questions remain about the effects of the MTO experiment. However, the striking reduction in anxiety and depression for women and girls is not one of them. Briggs and his colleagues argue persuasively for a major national commitment to affordable rental housing in safe and livable neighborhoods."--William Julius Wilson, Harvard University"This team of respected researchers has applied scientific rigor and experience-based pragmatism to tackle one of the most difficult subjects in the urban policy field: how to harness economic and housing programs to reduce poverty and to create life opportunities for America's poorest families. The result is analyses and conclusions which are sobering but also promising and hopeful." --Henry Cisneros, Executive Chairman, CityView and Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development"[The authors'] extensive experience working in housing and antipoverty policy making, implementation, and evaluation, and their direct involvement with the Moving to Opportunity experiment since it was begun in 1994, positioned them well to write a good book on it. "Moving to Opportunity insightfully reveals how the fight against ghetto poverty is more than just overcoming economic deprivation. It also involves improving safety and feelings of security and therefore increasing freedom from fear. A number of questions remain about the effects of the MTO experiment. However, the striking reduction in anxiety and depression for women and girls is not one of them. Briggs and his colleagues argue persuasively for a major national commitment to affordable rental housing in safe and livable neighborhoods."--William Julius Wilson, Harvard University"This team of respected researchers has applied scientific rigor and experience-based pragmatism to tackle one of the most difficult subjects in the urban policy field: how to harness economic and housing programs to reduce poverty and to create life opportunities for America's poorest families. The result is analyses and conclusions which are sobering but also promising and hopeful." --Henry Cisneros,show more

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