Housing and education
Housing and neighborhood conditions shape outcomes across a variety of domains. Materials in this section describe some of these connections, and help to make the case for broadening the coalition of support for initiatives that increase the availability of affordable housing. Click on the links below to learn more and view the brief.
At least five aspects of housing shape educational outcomes: affordability, stability of tenure, structural quality, neighborhood characteristics, and management and on-site services. This brief provides only a cursory review of the evidence of how housing enhances children’s learning, but the studies listed below provide a more thorough summary.
While we have made great strides in improving housing quality, this has been accompanied by widespread reductions in affordability. Living in an affordable home can increase disposable family income, which often leads to improvements in math and reading achievement for children in low-income families. With additional income, parents feel less stress, can give more time and attention to parenting, and are able to invest more money into enrichment activities.
Empirical evidence shows that additional income boosts young children’s academic achievement. For instance, evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which is targeted to low income and near-low income families, suggests that an additional $1,000 in income increases children’s combined math and reading test scores. Additional research indicates that children whose families receive vouchers perform better in school, even when they use those vouchers to lease in-place.
Support dedicated affordable housing or tenant-based housing subsidies. Housing subsidies and dedicated affordable housing can improve children’s academic achievement by enhancing affordability. Recent experimental research suggests that rental subsidies improve the quality of homes that families occupy, reduce their housing costs and their chance of experiencing homelessness, and allow them to spend more money on children. All of these impacts are likely, in turn, to enhance achievement in different school subjects. Local housing officials might consider increasing support for tenant-based rental assistance or different strategies to support place-based subsidized housing.
Expand the supply of dedicated affordable housing or tenant-based subsidies. Expanding the supply of dedicated, affordable housing can help to enhance the stability of families by providing them with homes offering a predictable rent. Similarly, tenant-based subsidies help families remain comfortably in their homes even as market rents rise.
Invest in tenant protections. Cities might consider adopting or expanding efforts to protect tenants from eviction, provide legal assistance, and offer emergency assistance, which can help families stay in their homes and communities. This further allows children to stay in their same schools with such continuity being demonstrated to aid educational outcomes.
Allow children to remain in their same schools. Local officials might work with their counterparts in the Department of Education to adopt policies that allow children to remain in their same schools even as their families move to a new neighborhood.
Reform housing code rules and enforcement. Several of these improvements can be achieved through strengthening both the substance and the enforcement of regulations. Local regulations can significantly shape children’s living conditions, improving child health and contributing to a supportive learning environment.
Lead abatement.Local officials can do more to enforce rules to protect families and children from lead exposure. Rochester, New York, for instance, passed an ordinance requiring regular inspections of most pre-1978 rental housing as a requirement to receipt of a certificate of occupancy. The policy change has already resulted in reduced blood lead levels in the county.
Incentives for housing repairs. Local officials should consider adopting homeowner rehabilitation assistance programs that offer subsidies to homeowners to help them make repairs to their homes. These programs can be useful for improving home energy efficiency, reducing exposure to toxic substances, and other essential improvements that can improve the quality of living and property values of program participants. Similarly, they might adopt tax incentives for the maintenance and rehabilitation of small properties.
Policy makers should also recognize that building and housing regulations can increase housing costs and even lead to evictions, with not all of them necessarily leading to educational improvements. This is especially true in the case of density restrictions. Most cities in the United States impose minimum unit sizes, dictate the number of occupants who can live in a housing unit, and restrict the number of dwelling units that can be constructed on a lot. Such regulations yield uncertain benefits for children while clearly raising housing costs, which leave families with fewer resources to invest in education-enhancing goods and services.
Invest in school and neighborhood improvements. Housing practitioners should look beyond their buildings, especially when they are located in communities where schools are performing at low levels. They should advocate for school improvements and potentially partner with education policy experts and practitioners to make physical investments in school facilities. Further, there is strong evidence that neighborhoods affect long-run educational outcomes as well. As noted above, there is particularly strong evidence that exposure to violence undermines children’s academic performance. Therefore, housing practitioners should look to partner with their colleagues in law enforcement, parks, and community development to ensure that neighborhoods provide safe streets and recreational resources for youth.
Combat housing market discrimination. Research shows that housing market discrimination remains an obstacle to finding affordable housing in well-resourced neighborhoods for many families. Such discrimination often prevents families from reaching neighborhoods and communities with well-resourced schools and low-crime environments, thus worsening inequality in childhood outcomes. Local officials might consider providing fair housing and racial equity education to landlords and realtors, increasing efforts to enforce existing fair housing laws, and adopting source of income discrimination laws that ban discrimination against applicants using housing choice voucherOfficially known as “Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher”. It is the largest and most sought after housing program in America. Section 8 HCVs are managed by various public housing agencies (most commonly referred to as housing authorities), which falls under the supervision of HUD. Program participants typically pay 30% of the rent, and the rest is covered by the HCV.s or other rental subsidies.
Create and preserve affordable housing in resource-richA term to define neighborhoods that offer abundant amenities, such as access to quality schools and public libraries, streets and parks that are free from violence and provide a safe place to play, and fresh and healthy food. neighborhoods: City officials might also invest in creating and preserving affordable housing units for families in resource-rich neighborhoods that offer high-performing schools, safe streets, and ample recreational opportunities for youth.
Invest in efforts to encourage mobility for voucher holders. Local officials may also want to expand efforts to help voucher holders reach a broader set of neighborhoods, with strategies including recruiting landlords in high-cost areas, providing mobility counseling to voucher holders, and increasing voucher payment standards in high-cost areas.
Cost effectiveness. Though improving housing costs money, in many cases the costs associated with improved home quality may be offset by the value of improved educational outcomes. Policymakers should break down barriers across sectors and invest in housing improvements that will generate significant educational benefits.
Partnerships. The housing sector cannot improve schools and neighborhoods on its own. Housing policymakers and practitioners should work closely with educational officials and community-based organizations to make improvements to schools, parks, and public spaces that enhance their usability and safety. This coordination is especially critical as new housing is created to ensure that local schools have the capacity to effectively serve the new families moving into an area.
One noteworthy instance of this policy is the partnership between Eden Housing and the Partnership for Children and Youth, who, together, have developed on-site after school programming led by trained staff to help support student learning and bridge the gap between resident-parents and local school staff.
Effective management and complementary on-site services
Encourage good management practices. Housing officials might consider offering or supporting training programs for small property owners and housing managers to help them effectively address building maintenance, enforce rules of conduct, address racism and discrimination, as well as support youth development. On-site services for youths, such as the provision of quality afterschool programming, can also be critical to keep children engaged and learning outside of the classroom.
Links to research summaries:
- Health Affairs, Housing Affordability And Children’s Cognitive Achievement
- Developmental Psychology, Does Money Really Matter? Estimating Impacts of Family Income on Young Children’s Achievement With Data From Random-Assignment Experiments
- American Economic Association, The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit
- Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Why Don’t Housing Voucher Recipients Live Near Better Schools? Insights from Big Data
- Housing Policy Debate, Housing affordability and family well‐being: Results from the housing voucher evaluation
- The Urban Institute, Childhood Poverty Persistence: Facts and Consequences
- Education Finance and Policy, Moving Matters: The Causal Effect of Moving on Students’ Performance
- Center for Housing Policy, Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children
- Journal of Public Economics, Are public housing projects good for kids?
- Housing Matters, Q&A on Housing and Child Development
- Developmental Psychology, Relations between housing characteristics and the well-being of low-income children and adolescents
- The Future of Children, Housing, Neighborhoods, and Children’s Health
- American Journal of Public Health, The Seattle-King County Healthy Homes Project: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of a Community Health Worker Intervention to Decrease Exposure to Indoor Asthma Triggers
- Indoor Air Journal, Meta-Analyses of the Associations of Respiratory Health Effects with Dampness and Mold in Homes
- Health Impact Project, 10 Policies to Prevent and Respond to Childhood Lead Exposure
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The acute effect of local homicides on children’s cognitive performance
- Sociological Science, High Stakes in the Classroom, High Stakes on the Street: The Effects of Community Violence on Students’ Standardized Test Performance
- American Economic Review, The Effects of Exposure to Better Neighborhoods on Children: New Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment
- Department of Housing and Urban Development, Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities 2012
- Case Western Reserve University, Mixed-Income Communities Need Mixed-Income Early Care and Education
Links to promising initiatives:
- National Housing Conference, Supporting Educational Achievement with Afterschool Programs Located in Affordable Housing