Study Finds Association Between Rental Assistance and How People Rate their Health

An article published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, “Rental Assistance and Adult Self-Rated Health,” found associations between how adults rated their own health and the receipt of rental assistance. Compared to adults receiving HUD rental assistance, those on the waiting list for housing assistance were up to 3 times more likely to rate their health as either poor or fair, rather than good, very good, or excellent.

The authors analyzed data collected in the “Justice, Housing, and Health Study” conducted in New Haven, CT. The study surveyed 616 low-income residents of New Haven who received housing assistance, food assistance, or Medicaid, were homeless, or lived in low-income neighborhoods. The respondents included 200 people with an incarceration history in the past two years and 200 people with no recent incarceration history. Demographic data, employment status, and other factors that could influence access to rental assistance (such as age, disability status, or having children) were collected from all respondents. Survey respondents were asked to rate their general health as poor, fair, good, very good, or excellent.

The authors separated the survey respondents into three categories: rent-assisted, waitlisted for rental assistance, and those neither receiving assistance nor having applied for assistance. The three groups were compared to one another to determine if there were statistically significant differences among them. The rent-assisted group was older, reflecting access to senior public housing developments, and more likely to be female. The racial composition was similar across the groups, and there were no significant differences with respect to employment and household income. The average monthly household income was $775, with 98% of the respondent’s earnings falling below 80% of their area median income (AMI). Because the Justice, Housing, and Health Study focused on connections between housing and mass incarceration, 63.5% of respondents had a prior felony conviction.

When they took into consideration the impact of gender, age, race and ethnicity, and disability status they found a significant relationship between self-rated health and housing assistance: those who were receiving rental assistance were significantly less likely than those waitlisted for assistance to rate their health as poor or fair. Individuals on a waitlist were three times more likely than individuals receiving assistance to report their health as poor or fair. Individuals in the neither assisted nor applied group were 2.3 times more likely to report their health as poor or fair. While the study was unable to determine if one type of federal aid was more beneficial than the other and did not directly establish that rental assistance causes better health, rental assistance generally was associated with higher self-rated health.

The study can be read at: