Study Finds Mobility Programs Can Reduce Barriers to High-Opportunity Neighborhoods

A recent study by Opportunity Insights, Creating Moves to Opportunity: Experimental Evidence on Barriers to Neighborhood Choice, examined the impact of the Creating Moves to Opportunity (CMTO) program that provided housing search assistance, small financial assistance, and outreach to landlords for families with Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) families in the Seattle metropolitan area. Fifty-four percent of voucher holders who participated in the program moved to high-opportunity areas versus 14% of those who did not. These moves can be beneficial to the economic mobility of young children as adults. Previous research indicates that low-income children who move to high-opportunity neighborhoods at birth are likely to have additional total lifetime earnings of $210,000.

To test the outcomes of the CMTO program, new HCV families with young children were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group received the CMTO services, while the other group did not. With some adjustments, the authors designated high-opportunity neighborhoods as those in the top one-third of Census tracts with regard to upward income mobility of low-income children who previously grew up in those neighborhoods. Significant positive impacts of, the CMTO were found across racial and ethnic groups.

In addition to being more likely to move to high-opportunity neighborhoods, 68% of families enrolled in the CMTO were very satisfied with their new neighborhood versus 33% of HCV families who did not receive CMTO services.

The authors attribute CMTO’s success largely to the program’s ability to address each family’s specific needs. In interviews, families reported that emotional support from program staff, a streamlined search process, direct brokering services with landlords, and targeted short-term financial assistance helped them overcome the barriers to moving to high-opportunity areas.

The full report is available at:

A report summary can be read at: