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202 Appendix A |  Study History and Methodology THE ORIGINS OF MOVING TO OPPORTUNITY In the early 1990s, many public housing projects had become war zones in American cities. By then, nearly everyone had concurred with the historian Arnold Hirsch’s charge that federal housing policy had merely remade the ghetto and that many of these housing projects were incubators for the social ills they sought to alleviate.1 In few places was this truer than in Baltimore. As we noted in chapter 2, a significant portion of the city’s neighborhoods with poverty rates of 40 percent or more were dominated by public housing almost entirely populated by African Americans, including four clusters of high-­ rise towers. While some within these developments created supportive networks of relatives and friends, life was also fraught with fear and trauma, according to those in our study. The deteriorating physical conditions of the buildings added additional stress and risk. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local housing authorities implemented a variety of policies to reduce concentrated poverty, including the demolition of the worst public housing stock while “vouchering out” at least a portion of those who were displaced (the rest were assigned to other public housing) and the rehabili­ tation of other complexes. The HOPE VI program funded much of the demolition and subsequent redevelopment of public housing. As a consequence, most of the projects that the youth in our sample originally hailed from are no longer standing. Around the same time that HUD was implementing HOPE VI, another approach to reducing concentrated poverty emerged, one with roots that went all the way back to the remedy from a Supreme Court case brought on behalf of a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) tenant, Dorothy Gau- Appendix A      203 treaux, in the 1960s. Her lawyers had argued that by placing practically all public housing in heavily black neighborhoods, the CHA had denied African Americans the opportunity to enter white neighborhoods via subsidized housing. This had served to segregate low-­ income African Americans in the city’s worst neighborhoods, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act. In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that HUD could be required to provide a Section 8 voucher–based remedy that could be metropolitan in scope.2 Part of that remedy was the Gautreaux program, which would move thousands of black Chicago public housing residents and applicants out of the projects and into the private market through a special voucher—one that could only be used to lease up in a neighborhood that met strict race criteria: no more than 30 percent African American. The program proved so popular that when CHA announced that applications were being received, traffic was shut down in Chicago’s Loop owing to the press of CHA tenants who wanted to get in line.3 James Rosenbaum decided to study some of the participating families to see how the program affected their lives. In his eyes, it was an incredible opportunity to learn about the impact that neighborhoods could have on the lives of families and children. But the Gautreaux Program, as it came to be known, was not a random assignment experiment—it was a legal remedy not designed with research in mind.4 However, Rosenbaum soon learned that there was quite a lot of variation in the kinds of neighborhoods to which Gautreaux families moved. Some found units within “revitalized” areas of the city, while others moved to the mostly white suburbs. In both cases, families would leave the projects, but the city and suburban locales to which they moved were quite different in a number of other ways. Not only were the suburbs generally whiter, but they typically had better schools, safer streets, and additional amenities.5 Rosenbaum and his colleagues (who later included Stefanie DeLuca) used a quasi-­ experimental approach to examine whether the suburban movers benefited over and above those who remained in the city.6 By 1992, Newsweek, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and even The Phil Donahue Show were applauding the “stunning” results from the Gautreaux Program. The New York Times went so far as to call it “a modest variation on the Underground Railroad.”7 Rosenbaum’s research had shown that children who moved through Gautreaux to the suburbs of Chicago were four times more likely to graduate from high school and twice as likely to attend college compared with their peers who remained in the...


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