Study: crime does not increase when people with housing vouchers move in

A new study suggests people with housing vouchers moving into a neighborhood does not raise crime levels:

The study by New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy found that housing vouchers don’t bring crime to an area. Rather, very low-income people using the vouchers often have limited options and tend to live in areas where crime already is high…

For its study, researchers looked at neighborhood-level data on voucher use and crime in the 10 cities, and whether the number of voucher holders in an area one year led to an increase in crime the following year. The study took into account differences between neighborhoods and other factors that might lead to an increase in crime in some areas.

Researchers found no evidence, even in poor neighborhoods, that an increase in voucher use directly led to more crime. But they did find something.

“If you do look at any given point in time, you do see a correlation, a weak one,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor and co-director Furman Center. “But what seems to be driving that correlation is that voucher (users) tend to rent in neighborhoods where crime is already occurring.”

This sounds like a classic case of reversing cause and effect. But, given the history of residential segregation in the United States, these perceptions aren’t surprising. Middle- and upper-class residents don’t generally want to live in neighborhoods with people with housing vouchers, perhaps due to a fear of reduced property values, perhaps due to race and ethnicity. Thus, this perception of housing voucher residents leading to more crime can serve the purpose of helping to keep class and race lines where they already are.