Inequality

Housing, Neighborhoods, and Children’s Health

Housing, Neighborhoods, and Children’s Health
Future of Children, Volume 25 Number 1 Spring 2015

Ingrid Gould Ellen and Sherry Glied
09/17/2015

In theory, improving low-income families’ housing and neighborhoods could also improve their children’s health, through any number of mechanisms. For example, less exposure to environmental toxins could prevent diseases such as asthma; a safer, less violent neighborhood could improve health by reducing the chances of injury and death, and by easing the burden of stress; and a more walkable neighborhood with better playgrounds could encourage children to exercise, making them less likely to become obese.

Yet although neighborhood improvement policies generally achieve their immediate goals— investments in playgrounds create playgrounds, for example—Ingrid Gould Ellen and Sherry Glied find that many of these policies don’t show a strong effect on poor children’s health. One problem is that neighborhood improvements may price low-income families out of the very neighborhoods that have been improved, as new amenities draw more affluent families, causing rents and home prices to rise. Policy makers, say Ellen and Glied, should carefully consider how neighborhood improvements may affect affordability, a calculus that is likely to favor policies with clear and substantial benefits for low-income children, such as those that reduce neighborhood violence.

Housing subsidies can help families either cope with rising costs or move to more affluent neighborhoods. Unfortunately, demonstration programs that help families move to better neighborhoods have had only limited effects on children’s health, possibly because such transi- tions can be stressful. And because subsidies go to relatively few low-income families, the presence of subsidies may itself drive up housing costs, placing an extra burden on the majority of families that don’t receive them. Ellen and Glied suggest that policy makers consider whether granting smaller subsidies to more families would be a more effective way to use these funds.

 

Neighborhood Effects

Neighborhood Effects
Faber, Jacob W. and Patrick Sharkey. 2015. “Neighborhood Effects.” In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition), 443-449.

Jacob William Faber and Patrick Sharkey
09/10/2015

Social scientists have long been concerned with the role of space in systems of stratification. While scholars in the field of ‘neighborhood effects’ have typically focused on how a community affects the life chances of its residents, we argue for a broader view of neighborhood effects that considers how spatial stratification serves to maintain and reproduce inequality across multiple dimensions. This article outlines major theoretical arguments exploring how local residential contexts affect social and economic outcomes at the level of individuals and communities, drawing attention to the empirical challenges to measuring neighborhood effects.

Effect of neighborhood stigma on economic transactions

Effect of neighborhood stigma on economic transactions
Besbris, Max, Jacob W. Faber, Peter Rich, and Patrick Sharkey. 2015. “The effect of neighborhood stigma on economic transactions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(16): 4994-4998.

Max Besbris, Jacob W. Faber, Peter Rich, and Patrick Sharkey
09/10/2015

Although previously theorized, virtually no rigorous empirical evidence has demonstrated an impact of neighborhood stigma on individual outcomes. To test for the effects of neighborhood stigma on economic transactions, an experimental audit of an online classified market was conducted in 2013–2014. In this market, advertisements were placed for used iPhones in which the neighborhood of the seller was randomly manipulated. Advertisements identifying the seller as a resident of a disadvantaged neighborhood received significantly fewer responses than advertisements identifying the seller as a resident of an advantaged neighborhood. The results provide strong evidence for an effect of neighborhood stigma on economic transactions, suggesting that individuals carry the stigma of their neighborhood with them as they take part in economic exchanges.

Superstorm Sandy and the Demographics of Flood Risk in New York City.

Superstorm Sandy and the Demographics of Flood Risk in New York City.
Faber, Jacob W. 2015. “Superstorm Sandy and the Demographics of Flood Risk in New York City.” Human Ecology, 43(3): 363-378.

Jacob William Faber
09/01/2015

“Superstorm Sandy” brought unprecedented storm surge to New York City neighborhoods and like previous severe weather events exacerbated underlying inequalities in part because socially marginalized populations were concentrated in environmentally exposed areas. This study makes three primary contributions to the literature on vulnerability. First, results show how the intersection of social factors (i.e., race, poverty, and age) relates to exposure to flooding. Second, disruption to the city’s transit infrastructure, which was most detrimental for Asians and Latinos, extended the consequences of the storm well beyond flooded areas. And third, data from New York City’s 311 system show there was variation in distress across neighborhoods of different racial makeup and that flooded neighborhoods remained distressed months after the storm. Together, these findings show that economic and racial factors overlap with flood risk to create communities with both social and environmental vulnerabilities.

Credit is Not a Right

Credit is Not a Right
in Microfinance, Rights, and Global Justice (edited by Tom Sorell and Luis Cabrera). Cambridge University Press.

Gershman, John and Jonathan Morduch
08/01/2015

Muhammad Yunus, the microcredit pioneer, has proposed that access to credit should be a human right. We approach the question by drawing on fieldwork and empirical scholarship in political science and economics. Evidence shows that access to credit may be powerful for some people some of the time, but it is not powerful for everyone all of the time, and in some cases it can do damage. Yunus’s claim for the power of credit access has yet to be widely verified, and most rigorous studies find microcredit impacts that fall far short of the kinds of empirical assertions on which his proposal rests. We discuss ways that expanding the domain of rights can diminish the power of existing rights, and we argue for a right to non-discrimination in credit access, rather than a right to credit access itself.

 

Renting in America’s Largest Cities

Renting in America’s Largest Cities
Conducted by the NYU Furman Center & commissioned by Capital One National Affordable Rental Housing Landscape

Sean Capperis, Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Brian Karfunkel
05/28/2015

The supply of affordable rental housing failed to keep pace with demand in the 11 largest U.S. cities while rents rose faster than household incomes in five of the them. The NYU Furman Center/Capital One National Affordable Housing Landscape examines rental housing affordability trends in the central cities of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Boston, Atlanta and Miami) from 2006 to 2013 and illustrates how these trends affected renters as more households chose to rent amid rising rental costs.

Nine of the 11 largest U.S. cities have seen falling vacancy rates and rising rents, which are hurting lower- and middle-income renters. “Affordable” rent should comprise less than 30 percent of a household’s income. With the exception of Dallas and Houston, the average renter in each metropolitan area could not afford the majority of recently available rental units in their city. The cities were even less affordable to low-income renters, who could afford no more than 11 percent of recently available units in the most affordable cities.

Since 2006, there has been an increase in the share of low- and moderate-income renters who are severely rent-burdened— meaning they face rent and utility costs equal to at least half of their income. In 2013, over a quarter of moderate-income renters were severely rent-burdened in seven of the cities in the study, while a significant majority of low-income renters in all 11 cities were severely rent-burdened. The percentage of low-income renters facing severe rent-burdens continued to rise in each of these cities and low-income renters are often most acutely impacted by the lack of affordable housing.

The study also found that in five cities, the proportion of moderate-income renters experiencing severe rent burdens grew remarkably, while in other cities, the situation for moderate-income renters either changed little or even improved.

Application of global positioning system methods for the study of obesity and hypertension risk among low-income housing residents in New York City: a spatial feasibility study

Application of global positioning system methods for the study of obesity and hypertension risk among low-income housing residents in New York City: a spatial feasibility study
Geospatial Health, Vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 57-70. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4081/gh.2014.6

Duncan, D.T., S.D. Regan, D. Shelley, K. Day, R.R. Ruff, M. Al-Bayan, and B. Elbel
09/01/2014

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of using global positioning system (GPS) methods to understand the spatial context of obesity and hypertension risk among a sample of low-income housing residents in New York City (n = 120). GPS feasibility among participants was measured with a pre- and post-survey as well as adherence to a protocol which included returning the GPS device as well as objective data analysed from the GPS devices. We also conducted qualitative interviews with 21 of the participants. Most of the sample was overweight (26.7%) or obese (40.0%). Almost one-third (30.8%) was pre-hypertensive and 39.2% was hypertensive. Participants reported high ratings of GPS acceptability, ease of use and low levels of wear-related concerns in addition to few concerns related to safety, loss or appearance, which were maintained after the baseline GPS feasibility data collection. Results show that GPS feasibility increased over time. The overall GPS return rate was 95.6%. Out of the total of 114 participants with GPS, 112 (98.2%) delivered at least one hour of GPS data for one day and 84 (73.7%) delivered at least one hour on 7 or more days. The qualitative interviews indicated that overall, participants enjoyed wearing the GPS devices, that they were easy to use and charge and that they generally forgot about the GPS device when wearing it daily. Findings demonstrate that GPS devices may be used in spatial epidemiology research in low-income and potentially other key vulnerable populations to understand geospatial determinants of obesity, hypertension and other diseases that these populations disproportionately experience.

Profile of Rent-Stabilized Units and Tenants in New York City

Profile of Rent-Stabilized Units and Tenants in New York City
Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. June 2014 Fact Brief.

NYU Furman Center
06/17/2014

Rent Stabilization is a New York State law that restricts how much rents in certain residential housing units can increase annually. The law generally applies to buildings constructed prior to 1974 that have six or more units, or to buildings that opt into the program in exchange for certain public subsidies. Rent Stabilization protects tenants from sharp increases in rents and protects their right to renew their leases.

In 2011, rent stabilized units comprised nearly one million units of housing in New York City—roughly 45 percent the city’s rental housing stock. Stabilized units house many low-income residents across New York City; roughly 66 percent of tenants living in rent-stabilized units were considered low-income in 2011.

This Fact Brief is an update to the NYU Furman Center’s April 2012 publication, Rent Stabilization in New York City. The data in this brief remain the most recent available from the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey. Data from the 2014 Housing and Vacancy Survey are expected to released next year.

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