Poster Paper: Residential Stability and Academic Performance: City University of New York Students Living In Public Housing

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 12:00 PM
Liberty A & B (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Simon McDonnell1, David Crook2 and Colin Chellman2, (1)Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (New York), (2)City University of New York

With the goal of improving life outcomes and housing conditions for low income families, public housing has a long history in the US stretching back to the 1930s (Currie and Yelowitz, 2000; Schwartz et al, 2010). Researchers and policymakers have assessed the direct and indirect impacts of these interventions on residents and the broader community (Newman and Harkness, 2002; Reingold et al, 2001). Economic theorists are mixed about the impact of public housing (Shroder, 2002; Rosenthal, 2007); by allowing tenants access to a bundle of goods beyond their unsubsidized budgets (e.g. more stable and better constructed housing), residents experience direct welfare gains (Murray, 1975). However the subsidy nature of public housing transfers may act as a disincentive to additional “effort” by residents. In addition, public housing often has a poor reputation, is disproportionately located in disadvantaged neighborhoods (Reingold et al, 2001; Schwartz et al, 2010), and those neighborhoods are often associated with diminished outcomes for tenants, especially for children and young adults (Ellen and Turner, 1997; Jacob, 2003). Despite this, there is evidence that public housing may mitigate some of these negative neighborhood impacts (Newman and Harkness, 2002).

More broadly, while policymakers and practitioners view efforts to subsidize housing as a tool to improve neighborhoods and the lives of their residents, there is relatively sparse research into those wider impacts (Chellman et al, 2011). In particular, little research explores the relationship between a student’s residential environment – and residential stability, specifically -- and college outcomes. While it is understood that stability is positively related to better educational outcomes for children (Hanushek et al, 2004), little is known about the relationship with college outcomes. If stability contributes to better academic outcomes, but neighborhood quality and poverty concentration detracts, which effect is greater?

In this longitudinal study, we first ask whether students in public housing (SIPHs) have higher rates of residential stability. Then, we explore if higher rates are related to better college outcomes. Finally, controlling for residential stability, we test to see if there is a significant and independent effect of living in public housing on college outcomes. Our outcomes include rates of retention, credit accumulation and graduation, and rates of “churn” (e.g., college transfer rates and changes in attendance status).

To provide background, we compare the building and neighborhood characteristics of CUNY students overall with CUNY SIPHs. We do this by combining datasets of student residential location and educational outcomes with various administrative datasets provided by city agencies and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Using geospatial matching techniques, we match each CUNY applicant and enrolled student’s home address with a geospatial database of property lots maintained by NYCHA.[1] After comparing the socio-economic characteristics of SIPHs with students living in other properties, we then focus on how their educational outcomes differ, controlling for characteristics such as financial aid, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, commuting times, educational background, and residential stability.

[1] Future research will include other forms of publicly assisted housing such as Section 8, both voucher and project based.