PROBLEM: How much might their distressed surroundings affect the lives of the most desperately poor? A social experiment in the mid-90s called Moving to Opportunity relocated thousands of low-income families in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York from public housing projects to lower-poverty areas in an attempt to answer this question. Disappointingly, they did not observe any increases in household income — an apparent blow to the housing vouchers system. Might other improvements have emerged despite the lack of improvement in their economic situation?
METHODOLOGY: Moving to Opportunity was a true experiment, in that it used a randomized lottery system to select the relocated families. This study revisits these subjects and looks at the long-term effects of moving on their physical and mental health and subjective well-being.
RESULTS: The voucher recipients who relocated live in neighborhoods with a 31.4 percent poverty rate. This is still unusually high, but it’s a marked improvement from the living situations of the control group: in their neighborhoods, 39.6 percent of the residents are living in poverty.
Improvements in mental health were statistically significant, measured by a psychological distress index score for the preceding month, lifetime depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and amounts of normal sleep.
CONCLUSION: Moving to a better — or at least, less impoverished — neighborhood was correlated with improved mental health, including lower levels of depression, and “sizeable positive effects” on families’ subjective well-being, a measure that the study’s authors feel “represents a comprehensive assessment by the participants themselves of the extent to which their lives have been affected.”
In a comment accompanying the study, Robert Sampson writes that the findings are notable for indicating that the relocation of people who grew up and spent most of their lives in poor neighborhoods can have lasting, positive effects. However, he says, “it remains unclear whether people-based or place-based interventions will be more effective in confronting persistent spatial divisions by race and class.”IMPLICATIONS: “These findings suggest the importance of focusing on efforts to improve the well-being of poor families, rather than just the narrower goal of reducing income poverty, and the potential value of community-level interventions for achieving that end,” lead author Jens Ludwig said in a statement. The authors indicate that income segregation has superseded racial segregation as a major contributing factor to the diminished health and well-being of residents.
The full study, “Neighborhood Effects on the Long-Term Well-Being of Low-Income Adults,” is published in the journal Science.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has yet another idea to improve the lives of New Yorkers: micro apartments. Yesterday he proposed that single people should live in studios no larger than 300 square feet. The size of this apartment is now considered illegal because it’s so small, but never fear, the good mayor plans on changing the zoning laws so the new tiny apartments will be legal.
One might think that an apartment that’s barely large enough for a toaster would be cheaper to rent. Does $2,000 a month sound cheap? Didn’t think so.
The mayor said that single-person apartments are rare in the city and are in high demand. But it’s an apartment that people want not a room that’s the size of half a train car.
According to Business Insider there are currently 1.8 million one and two-person households, but only one million studio and one-bedroom apartments.
These smaller 300 foot micro apartments will all be 10 by 30 feet and must have a window and a kitchen. But will there be room for a kitchen table and maybe a chair?
Bloomberg is accepting proposals for the apartments, which will be located on E 27th Street and First Avenue in Kips Bay. The apartments, the mayor insists, will help young professionals find proper housing in the city while they start their careers. Keep telling yourself that, Mike.
But the question is: Would New York’s billionaire mayor ever live in an apartment that small? Of course he would - if he were younger. Bloomberg said he’d be more than happy to live there. It’s a good thing the mayor isn’t so young anymore or someone might suggest he move there instead of his current mansion which is 41 times the size of his 300 foot apartment proposal.
In his youth, Bloomberg lived in a 600 square foot studio apartment for almost ten years. The rent was $120 a month, much cheaper than the rent of the new smaller apartments that will be half the size of what the mayor used to live in.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Michael Bloomberg would like to ban large-sized sugary drinks. With only 300 square feet to live in people will have to be pretty slim to be comfortable in the micro apartments.