Monday, October 24, 2011

Neighborhood Effects on Health Outcomes

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that moving poor women to lower poverty neighborhoods improves their health:

scholars from around the country studied 4,498 poor women and children who enrolled in a residential mobility program called Moving to Opportunity. The MTO program enrolled low-income families with children living in distressed public housing. Families volunteered for the experiment, and based on the results of a random lottery, were offered the chance to use a housing voucher subsidy to move into a lower-poverty community. Other families were randomly assigned to a control group that received no special assistance under the program.

At the time of follow-up, 17 percent of the women in the study’s control group were morbidly obese (body mass index at or above 40), and 20 percent had diabetes. However, in the group of women who were offered housing vouchers to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods, the rates of morbid obesity and diabetes were both about one fifth lower than in the control group. “These findings provide strong evidence that the environments in low-income neighborhoods can contribute to poor health,” said Ludwig.

Steve Clowney

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