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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Study Suggests Restrictive Housing Vouchers Improve Recipients’ Health, Life Expectancy

A study co-authored by Dr. Peter Muennig, professor of health policy and management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, suggests that limiting federal housing vouchers to use in low-poverty neighborhoods not only helps save taxpayers’ money, but also improves the health and life expectancy of recipients.

Dr. Muennig and co-author, Dr.  Zafar Zafari, at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, analyzed data from the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) trial to examine potential cost savings associated with MTO-type restrictive housing vouchers, as well as understand how the vouchers might impact the quality of life of the households that use them.

Drs. Zafari and Muennig are the first researchers to incorporate data related to quality of life in their model.

They found that providing low-income families with restrictive housing vouchers for use in low-poverty neighborhoods decreased rates of obesity and diabetes. The researchers wanted to build on the findings and look at the long-term health/economic benefits of providing Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing (MTO)-type restrictive housing vouchers to low-income families on a widespread scale.

Households that used the restricted housing vouchers experienced decreased rates of both obesity and diabetes, as well as higher rates of self-reported happiness.

“Housing vouchers that require recipients to move into higher income neighborhoods…are effective at improving health,” says Dr. Muennig. “Such vouchers potentially mean better schooling opportunities for children and safer neighborhoods for the parent. These ‘life upgrades’ are one of the most…proven ways to improve the health of low-income Americans. Because low-income Americans are at the heart of the health crises we are now confronting it is important to make this program universal.”

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