Report Looks at Tradeoffs Faced by Low-Income Families with Children

May 10, 2018
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A recent report entitled “Low-Income Families with Children Face Affordability/Unit Size/Neighborhood Opportunity Tradeoff in Housing Search,” issued by Brandeis University’s School of Social Policy and Management, looked at the siting of lower-cost rental housing homes that can accommodate large families in relation to neighborhood opportunity. The report found that lower-cost, large units, defined as units with three or more bedrooms, are disproportionately located in low-opportunity neighborhoods, making it difficult for families to access high-opportunity areas.

The researchers determined the size, cost, and location of rental homes using data from American Community Survey (ACS). To measure neighborhood opportunity, the researchers used the Child Opportunity Index, which aggregates different metrics for educational, health, and economic opportunity. Across the 100 largest metros, 25.4 percent of large rentals are in the lowest opportunity neighborhoods and only 15.8 percent are in the highest opportunity neighborhoods. An even greater percentage of lower-cost, large units are in lower-opportunity neighborhoods. Forty-three percent of large units renting for less than $750 per month were located in the lowest opportunity neighborhoods, while only 7 percent were in high-opportunity neighborhoods. The siting patterns of large, lower-cost rentals vary significantly by metropolitan area. Northeastern metros are more likely to have lower shares of large units in higher-opportunity areas. 

According to the report, the concentration of large, affordable rental units in lower-opportunity neighborhoods and the relative scarcity of such units in higher-opportunity neighborhoods forces renter households to make difficult tradeoffs. Minority households, especially Hispanic households, face this dilemma disproportionately, as they are more likely to be renters, have larger households, have children in the household, and have lower incomes than white households. Families who choose to double up, trading off space for potentially lower rents and/or better neighborhoods, risk the negative effects of crowding, which can have persistent detrimental impacts on children’s well-being. Those who devote more substantial shares of their incomes to housing in order to attain additional space and/or better neighborhoods have fewer resources to devote to other needs such as food, healthcare, and child enrichment. And children who remain in lower-opportunity neighborhoods may face risks related to exposure to violence and poor outcomes in many areas such as physical and behavioral health, education, marriage and childbearing, and employment, as well as lower future earnings and college attendance.

The report can be found by clicking here.

The report is linked to an interactive bar chart tool that can be found by clicking here.