Moving to Opportunity: Do Low-Poverty Neighborhoods Empower Disempowered Women and Children?

Political Science

Disadvantaged Americans rarely vote, and they are severely underrepresented in the political system. How can a democracy break the cycle of poverty and political quiescence? In the 1990s, the federal government launched Moving to Opportunity, perhaps the most ambitious housing experiment in America. It allowed some families in low-income public housing to move to private housing in less distressed neighborhoods, by a voucher lottery. Most of the families were headed by low-income minority women. Unfortunately, the program failed to decrease the disadvantage of the women—or to increase their voting. However, as their children grew up in less distressed neighborhoods, their disadvantage did decrease. I analyze data from the study, merged with public voting records, to discover whether the children became active in the political process. This study offers the first examination of the long-term impact of childhood disadvantage—and of an ambitious effort to blunt it—on political voice.

The project would benefit from an undergraduate with knowledge of behavioral research methods in political science, and either strong writing skills for writing literature reviews or strong statistical or coding skills for work with complex datasets. Further detail on the research is available here: