Children who move often tend to have more behavioral problems, worse academic performance, and less stability in health care services than children with greater housing stability, according to a recent report. These problems may be more prevalent among children of low income families since, as one resident tracking study reveals, poor families have the highest rate of mobility of any subgroup.
These are some of the findings that the Center for Housing Policy draws from three studies it commissioned of the Making Connections Survey, the Women's Employment Study, and ethnographic data from a study of 256 families in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio between 1999 and 2006 to explore the effects of frequent moves, what experts call “high mobility,” on the outcomes of children.
Overall, their findings reveal that children that move often fare worse in health and education than children with greater housing stability. Children with high mobility are more likely to repeat a grade, get suspended, and have among the lowest academic performance in their class. Standardized test scores and high school graduation rates are also lower, which may be the result of students’ separation from support networks and familiar study environments, or of excessive school absenteeism. Health-related barriers, such as stress and depression, can also have influential roles.
The report does note that while frequency of moves appears important, all moves are not bad. One study found that voluntary movers do not tend to be “pushed out” by high housing costs or poor quality housing, but rather tend to be “pulled” to safer neighborhoods and better quality homes, which often came at a higher cost. One study found that families that received a housing subsidy were also more likely to move than those that did not. The report also notes that changes in family size can bring moves within public housing. However, families that lost a housing subsidy were far more likely (10 times more likely) to move neighborhoods than families that did not have a housing subsidy during the study period and more than five times more likely than families that had a subsidy throughout the study.
The authors also find that households with significant cost burdens are most likely to experience high mobility. According to a study of the American Housing survey, over half of the poor families with moderate cost burdens (57%) and severe cost burdens (56%) moved within a two-year period.
The report by Rebecca Cohen and Keith Wardrip, Should I Stay or Should I Go: Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children, concludes by suggesting greater investigation into supportive services and eviction prevention to promote housing stability among vulnerable households. They also suggest greater parental participation in extracurricular and after-school programs to mitigate the effects of high mobility on children.
For more information about the causes and characteristics of high mobility households, and the effect on children, visit http://www.nhc.org/child_mobility.html to read the summary report as well as the three detailed underlying studies by Nandinee Kutty (Making Connections), Robin Phinney (Women's Employment Study), and Sherri Lawson Clark (Three-City).