Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Impact of Affordable Housing on the Structure and Content of Social Networks: A Regression Discontinuity Study of Low-Income Households in New York City

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:55 AM
Miami Lecture Hall (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elyzabeth Gaumer1, Ahuva Jacobowitz1 and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn2, (1)NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, (2)Columbia University
A growing body of research focuses on the impact of moving to mixed-income housing on the social networks of poor households and the potential for such changes to promote well-being. Less is known about the social lives of low-income working households or whether moving to affordable housing developments alters the structure or use value of residents’ social networks.

This paper presents findings from a regression discontinuity study of low-income households. In-person interviews were conducted both with those that were offered housing (n=113) as well as a similar group of individuals who were not offered housing because their household income was just above the income eligibility limit (n=145). Ego-centric network data were collected to assess structure (e.g., size of network, density, homophily, geographic proximity of ties) as well as content of relationships (e.g., use of ties for emotional support, instrumental support, and/or information and advice).

We find that affordable housing residents are socially connected to a range of individuals, including family, friends, and neighbors. Although residents do not perceive neighbors from the same building to be important resources, we find strong evidence that they neighbor extensively in ways that may help them to both get by and get ahead. Overall, 86 percent of treatment households named at least one building resident in their social network roster. Residents exchange one or more type of support with 80 percent of named individuals who live within the same building. Residents exchange information and advice with 70 percent of named building ties. When we compare affordable housing residents’ networks with our comparison group, we find that affordable housing is associated with several key differences in both structure and content. Affordable housing residents have significantly more ties to other building residents, though they interact with them less frequently, than our comparison group. Residents also have a significantly larger number of ties to others in the building that provide specific types of support, including emotional and instrumental support as well as information or advice.

These findings provide new insights into the social context of the low-income working population most frequently served by affordable housing, such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. Our findings show that the offer of housing increases the number of ties to other building residents and that these ties provide support in varied ways that may improve well-being. We discuss policy implications, including what they signal for mixed-income developments that include affordable housing residents as the higher income residents.