Panel Paper: Housing Assistance and Residential Crowding: Findings from Longitudinal Data

Friday, November 9, 2018
Jackson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sarah Gold, Princeton University

Residential crowding is associated with a host of negative conditions for families and children including poor parenting, psychological distress, and lower academic performance. Housing assistance may be an important tool for reducing residential crowding. This study uses four decades of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to explore the association between housing assistance receipt and residential crowding among low-income families with children and examines differences in this relationship by housing assistance type.

This project utilizes data from the PSID, a large, nationally representative panel survey of families in the United States, with a current sample of about 24,000 individuals in 10,000 families. The PSID contains questions addressing demographics, income, mobility, and educational attainment. In addition to the detailed longitudinal data available in the PSID core, the PSID’s restricted-use Assisted Housing Database (PSID-AHD) provides information on housing assistance for all family units in the PSID. The PSID-AHD has matched standardized addresses for each family unit from 1968 through 2009 to records of assisted housing to verify housing assistance receipt. Because housing assistance receipt is often misreported, the verification of such receipt is critical for measuring assistance.

The study sample is limited to low-income, renter families with children born between 1968 and 1992. To account for income fluctuation over time, families are categorized as low-income if their average income from the child’s birth to age 15 is at or below 50% of the area median income. Housing assistance receipt at each wave is coded categorically (no housing assistance; public housing; voucher; some other type of assistance). Residential crowding is also measured across the same period and is coded in three ways: ratio of people per rooms (measured continuously), traditional crowding (at least 1 person per room vs. not), and severe crowding (at least 1.5 people per room vs. not).

The association between housing assistance receipt and crowding is explored, taking advantage of the panel nature of these data, and controlling for a comprehensive set of covariates at the individual, family, household, and census tract levels that may confound this relationship In all models, housing assistance is lagged to address potential reverse causality. First, associations of housing assistance type and each measure of crowding are estimated using pooled cross-sections of the data and adjusting standard errors for clustering at the individual level. Next, in order to address unobserved differences between households with and without housing assistance, individual fixed effects models are incorporated, which identify associations only within individuals.

Preliminary findings from fixed effects models show that receiving either public housing or a voucher is associated with experiencing reduced crowding on two measures (both when measured as the ratio of people per room and when measured as severe crowding) but not the more traditional measure of crowding. Robustness checks will explore why the findings from these measures differ.

This research can provide important information about the role of housing assistance in preventing crowding. These findings can help inform both the implementation and funding of these programs.