This project examined whether providing assisted housing to NYC families impacts the educational achievement of children in those families. This assistance has been theorized to increase a child’s ability to attend school and focus on schoolwork via increasing residential stability and security. However, prior research has not produced a clear answer to this question and frequently finds no effects at all of assisted housing on educational outcomes.
To examine the effects of assisted housing on educational achievement in NYC, this study followed approximately 10,000 middle school and high school students whose families were new recipients of either public housing or tenant-based vouchers. The educational outcomes of these assisted housing students were then compared to control groups comprised of students who did not receive assisted housing. The control groups were matched to the assisted housing groups on pre-assistance educational, housing, and demographic characteristics. Because students in the assisted housing groups were similar to the control groups prior to the receipt of assisted housing, differences in subsequent educational achievement could be attributed to assisted housing.
The results showed that impact of assisted housing on educational outcomes differed by age group. Among middle school students, assisted housing had no effect on educational achievement. However, several effects emerged for high school students: tenant-based vouchers reduced the likelihood of dropping out of high school, and public housing increased attendance and the likelihood of graduating in a timely fashion.
Follow-up analyses suggested that the occurrence of a school move helps explain this age-group difference. The analyses showed that the younger middle school children were especially vulnerable to a school move following receipt of assisted housing (likely because when assisted housing triggers a residential move to a new school district, middle school students cannot independently commute back to their old school). This school move, in turn, appeared to disrupt educational benefits of assisted housing that might otherwise have emerged and that were observed among the older high school students. It is possible that efforts to limit or smooth these middle school transitions following the receipt of assisted housing may therefore help these students reap the educational benefits of housing stability.