March 25, 2005
Public-housing residents are more likely to seek higher-paying jobs if they believe they will not be penalized with higher rents that lower their income, say researchers from the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), a New York nonprofit organization specializing in social-policy research. They also found that not increasing rents, combined with other incentives, prompts residents to move up the income scale.
In a six-year review of a pilot project known as Jobs-Plus, researchers tracked 5,000 residents of public-housing complexes and compared the earnings at complexes with Jobs-Plus to sites with similar population and salary demographics. Some results:
- Annual earnings of residents at three public-housing complexes that fully implemented Jobs-Plus were 14 percent higher annually over the first three years of the project than they would have been without the program.
- Rental incentives that allowed residents to keep more of their earnings, as well as employment-related services such as resume writing, combined to increase the incomes of residents participating in the project by nearly 20 percent during the last year of the project.
- Implementing the program at a complex is estimated to cost about $150 per targeted resident a month.
According to the researchers, earnings are especially noteworthy both because they persisted even after the onset of a national economic recession and because they represent value added by the program over and above any effects produced by concurrent reforms in the welfare, work-force and public-housing systems.
Source: Gary Fields, "Housing Study Finds Path to Higher Paying Jobs," Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2005; based upon: Howard S. Bloom, James A. Riccio and Nandita Verma, "Promoting Work in Public Housing: The Effectiveness of Jobs-Plus," Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), March 2005.
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