Panel Paper: Assisted Housing and Changes in Household Composition

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8212 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kristin L. Perkins, Harvard University

Recent research finds that changes in household composition are detrimental to children’s wellbeing and outcomes. What prompts changes in household composition? Families living in unaffordable or unstable housing may double up with another household to ease housing cost burdens, or move in with extended family members or friends to find stability. Subsidized housing is designed to provide affordable and stable housing to families and individuals in need, and thus may result in fewer changes in household composition for families that receive it.

In this paper I use data from the 1995 through 2015 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and the linked Assisted Housing Database (AHD) to estimate the effect of receipt of housing assistance on changes in household composition. The AHD is a restricted-use dataset provided by the PSID that can be linked to the public-use PSID family data file to identify PSID households using project- and tenant-based subsidies from HUD, through Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and various other federal and state programs. These linked data allow me to identify when households first receive housing assistance and track changes in their household composition longitudinally following receipt of assistance and accounting for continued receipt of assistance. I use matching methods to compare changes in household composition among the approximately 500 surveyed households that received housing assistance between 1996 and 2009 to changes in household composition among approximately 2,000 similar households that did not receive assistance. I also take advantage of the longitudinal nature of the PSID to compare changes in household composition within the same households both before and after they receive assistance.

Reducing housing costs through assistance may result in immediate changes in household composition as doubled up and extended family households dissolve to establish independent households, but may ultimately result in more stability in household composition if housing assistance enables households to maintain affordable housing. The length of time that households receive assisted housing varies, providing an opportunity to assess whether longer versus shorter spells in assisted housing have different effects on changes in household composition. Providing material resources for housing is one of the ways in which policymakers could feasibly intervene to encourage housing and household stability, with longer-term benefits for children’s wellbeing and outcomes.