More than half (57%) of residents in disadvantaged communities moved within a three-year period, according to a report released November 3 by the Urban Institute. The study also found that all reductions in neighborhood poverty seen over the three-year time span were the result of mobility, i.e. people moving into or out of a neighborhood, and not an improvement in the situation of those who stayed.
The report, Family Mobility and Neighborhood Change, uses a source of data generated as part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections (MC) program, tracking households in 10 MC communities in a first wave of the evaluation (with data collected between 2002 and 2003) and a second wave (conducted between 2005 and 2007) that comprised both those residents that stayed or moved within the community, as well as those that left the neighborhood after the first wave of evaluation. The data provide a rare perspective into changes in neighborhood composition and the people who stay, as well as on the effects on households that move away from a place-based intervention site.
Using these data, the researchers identify five neighborhood types based on shared characteristics. The five community models (incubators, launch pads, neighborhoods of choice, comfort zones, and isolating neighborhoods) show how different neighborhoods function differently for their residents. Isolating neighborhoods were the only typology shown to have negative impacts across all fronts, contributing to economic insecurity and distress and maintaining low levels of neighborhood attachment and satisfaction among residents.
The report finds that neighborhoods are not defined simply by geography, but that they have a relational component as well. The researchers found the median distance households with children moved was just 2.6 miles, with families often maintaining strong ties with the communities from which they moved. Community initiatives should continue reaching out to these families, as they may still be in need of assistance, or in the case of “up-and-out” movers, they can serve to broaden the neighborhood’s social network.
Within these communities, the researchers define different household types based on their mobility, family and age characteristics, and the nature of their movements during the study period. Mobility among these household types reflected either positive change, negative change, or a combination of the two.
The researchers conclude from their research that community based initiatives cannot expect their programs to benefit only people residing in the neighborhood when the initiative begins. Instead, at the outset they must acknowledge the fluid nature of neighborhoods. Households that move before initiatives are fully implemented as well as those that move in or out of the community as a result of place-based initiatives should be considered in program design and evaluation.
The MC program, launched in 1999, seeks to improve outcomes for vulnerable children in impoverished neighborhoods by strengthening connections to economic opportunity, social networks and supportive services. The MC neighborhoods are in Denver, Des Moines, Hartford, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Oakland, Providence, San Antonio, and White Center, WA.
The full report is available at: www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/411973_family_mobility.pdf