May 15, 2018
Since federal public housing assistance was first created in 1939 amid the Great Depression, public housing advocates have struggled with how to move low-income families to higher-opportunity neighborhoods, typically defined as neighborhoods with less poverty (though experts argue there are other ways to measure opportunity, including quality of schools and access to public transportation, and KCHA uses a broader “opportunity index” to compare locations). The Moving to Opportunity program, a federal demonstration in the 1990s, documented outcomes of families moving to neighborhoods with lower poverty rates. The program didn’t show immediate health and economic gains at its conclusion, but in 2015, a landmark paper by Raj Chetty and others showed that for children who moved before the age of 13, the economic and social gains were dramatic. Not coincidentally, 12 and younger was the target age for kids participating in the KCHA opportunity moves.