Do Federally Assisted Households Have Access to High Performing Public Schools?

Ingrid Gould Ellen and Keren Mertens Horn, Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, available here

"A family’s housing unit provides more than simply shelter. It also provides a set of neighborhood ameni- ties and a package of local public services, including, most critically, a local school. Yet housing and education policymakers rarely coordinate their efforts, and there has been little examination of the schools that voucher holders or other assisted households actually reach. In this project we describe the elementary schools nearest to households receiving four different forms of housing assistance in the country as a whole, in each of the 50 states, and in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. We compare the characteristics of these schools to those accessible to other comparable households. We pay particular attention to whether voucher holders are able to reach neighborhoods with higher performing schools than other low-income households in the same geographic area.

In brief, we find that assisted households as a whole are more likely to live near low-performing schools than other households. Surprisingly, Housing Choice Voucher holders do not generally live near higher performing schools than households receiving other forms of housing assistance, even though the voucher program was created, in part, to help low-income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. While voucher holders typically live near schools that are higher performing than those nearest to public housing tenants, they also typically live near schools that are slightly lower performing than those nearest to households living in Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and Project-based Section 8 developments and lower performing than those nearest to other poor households.

Our analysis is based on the most recent available data from 2008-09, which means that the data do not take into account the efforts of HUD and state housing agencies to improve the operation of their housing programs over the past four years. The data will also not reflect the full impacts of the recession and housing crisis on subsidized housing location patterns. We are looking forward to comparing this baseline data with 2012 data when they become available."

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