Empirical Economics

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 925–954 | Cite as

Assessing the evidence on neighborhood effects from Moving to Opportunity

  • Dionissi AliprantisEmail author


The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment randomly assigned housing vouchers that could be used in low-poverty neighborhoods. Consistent with the literature, I find that receiving an MTO voucher had no effect on outcomes like earnings, employment, and test scores. However, after studying the assumptions identifying neighborhood effects with MTO data, this paper reaches a very different interpretation of these results than found in the literature. I first specify a model in which the absence of effects from the MTO program implies an absence of neighborhood effects. I present theory and evidence against two key assumptions of this model: that poverty is the only determinant of neighborhood quality and that outcomes only change across one threshold of neighborhood quality. I then show that in a more realistic model of neighborhood effects that relaxes these assumptions, the absence of effects from the MTO program is perfectly compatible with the presence of neighborhood effects. This analysis illustrates why the implicit identification strategies used in the literature on MTO can be misleading.


Moving to Opportunity Neighborhood effect Program effect 

JEL Classification

C30 H50 I38 J10 R00 



I thank Francisca G.-C. Richter, Jeffrey Kling, my Math Corps students, and several seminar participants and anonymous referees for contributing to this paper. I am also grateful to Mary Zenker for research assistance and Paul Joice at HUD for help accessing the data. The research reported here was supported in part by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, through Grant R305C050041-05 to the University of Pennsylvania. The views stated herein are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, or the US Department of Education.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research DepartmentFederal Reserve Bank of ClevelandClevelandUSA

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