Public Housing, Housing Vouchers and Student Achievement: Evidence from Public Housing Demolitions in Chicago

Jacob, B. (2004). "Public Housing, Housing Vouchers and Student Achievement: Evidence from Public Housing Demolitions in Chicago." American Economic Review. 94(1): 233-258.

Abstract

There has been a substantial shift from public housing to voucher-based housing assistance over the past decade, largely in response to the rising cost of public housing and the high rates of crime, unemployment and school failure among public housing residents. Despite this shift, there is relatively little evidence on the impact of public housing or housing vouchers on educational outcomes. This paper utilizes a plausibly exogenous source of variation in housing assistance generated by public housing demolitions in Chicago to examine the impact of high-rise public housing on student outcomes. I find that children in households affected by the demolitions do no better or worse than their peers on a wide variety of achievement measures. Because the majority of households that leave public housing in response to the demolitions move to neighborhoods and schools that closely resemble those they left, the zero effect of the demolitions may be interpreted as the independent impact of public housing. These findings suggest that eliminating high-rise public housing will not necessarily lead to the benefits documented in housing mobility experiments such as Gautreaux or Moving to Opportunity.

[Download the NBER working paper]