April 18, 2011
The Center for Housing Policy recently released a research report, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children, a composite and analysis of four separate reports analyzing household moves and family data. The Center’s report found that, compared to families living in affordable housing, those spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing were much more likely to have moved in the previous 24 months. If these moves were unplanned or involuntary, they tended to have negative consequences on the children in those families. Noted Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of the Center, “affordable housing may help low-income families with children avoid unplanned moves.”
In one study reviewed, families who were found to be “hyper-mobile” (where the household had moved six times in as many years) had children who fared much worse academically. Children in this study who underwent involuntary moves were much more likely than children involved in voluntary moves to have excessive absences and an increase in absences after the move. The effect appears to be cumulative, with a separate data report within the study finding that within a sample of 4,000 students, each move increased the odds of a child having problems in school by almost 85 percent.
A connection was also found between those receiving housing assistance and frequent moves, although the extent to which these moves might be voluntary or not, or considered positive moves to better neighborhoods, etc., was not clear. The study concludes by calling for further data collection about the frequency of unplanned moves, additional examination of the effect of these moves on child outcomes, and further exploration of mobility in families with housing assistance. The study suggests that further data could inform housing assistance program design and community development initiatives.