Saturday, July 26, 2008

Is Section Eight Housing Driving a New Crime Wave?

In a effort to free America's downtrodden from the effects of concentrated poverty, cities gave former residents federal “Section 8” rent-subsidy vouchers and encouraged them to move out to new neighborhoods. In some places the cure may have been worse than the disease.

While fewer Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, increasing numbers now live in places with “moderate” poverty rates, meaning rates of 20 to 40 percent. This pattern is not necessarily better, either for poor people trying to break away from bad neighborhoods or for cities, Galster explains. His paper compares two scenarios: a city split into high-poverty and low-poverty areas, and a city dominated by median-poverty ones. The latter arrangement is likely to produce more bad neighborhoods and more total crime, he concludes, based on a computer model of how social dysfunction spreads.

Studies show that recipients of Section8 vouchers have tended to choose moderately poor neighborhoods that were already on the decline, not low-poverty neighborhoods. One recent study publicized by HUD warned that policy makers should lower their expectations, because voucher recipients seemed not to be spreading out, as they had hoped, but clustering together. Galster theorizes that every neighborhood has its tipping point—a threshold well below a 40 percent poverty rate—beyond which crime explodes and other severe social problems set in. Pushing a greater number of neighborhoods past that tipping point is likely to produce more total crime.

Read the whole thing.

1 comment:

admiral burns said...

The up-side is that it is now much easier to keep up with the Joneses because the Joneses are poor as church mice. It is a great way to feel better about yourself without actually having to do anything to improve your own circumstances.