Should Policy Seek to Interfere With Upward Mobility by Deconcentrating Poverty?

Reasons for Concern

Authored by: Howard Husock

The Routledge Handbook of Housing Policy and Planning

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138188433
eBook ISBN: 9781315642338
Adobe ISBN:


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A wide consensus has developed among scholars and policymakers that residential concentrations of poverty are undesirable and should be ameliorated through housing market interventions, notably the use of housing subsidies in the form of vouchers. Herein, I take issue with this consensus, both on practical and normative grounds. Following summaries of evaluations of the Moving to Opportunity program, especially that of Chetty, to which the consensus for intervention looks for support, I question, first, whether policy implementation could target only those groups found to benefit. More broadly, however, I use the works of Rees, White, and Hardman and Ioannides to establish the concept of a housing ladder norm in the U.S., which deconcentration efforts would violate, risking tension in receiving communities and the undermining of perceived status gain by formerly poor households, including minority group members who have, absent subsidies, themselves moved to non-poor neighborhoods.

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