Commentary:MTO’s Contribution to a Virtuous Cycle of Policy Experimentation and Learning
Margery Austin Turner, Urban Institute
When the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing demonstration began in the mid-1990s, policymakers at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were newly aware of the terrible damage inflicted on families and children living in severely distressed neighborhoods and the role federal housing policy played in concentrating and isolating poor (mostly minority) families in these neighborhoods. Findings from the Chicago Gautreaux experiment suggest that helping families escape from deeply poor neighborhoods and move to neighborhoods of opportunity might dramatically improve their well-being and life chances. At the time, however, few people (whether policymakers, practitioners, or scholars) saw HUD as a source of policy innovation or rigorous experimentation, and federal housing policy was an afterthought in most discussions about antipoverty strategies and welfare reform (Briggs, Popkin, and Goering, 2010).
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