The Impact of Public Housing on Social Networks

A Natural Experiment

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, v. 104, no. 9, Sep. 2014, p. 1642-1649

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Craig Pollack, Harold D. Green, David P. Kennedy, Beth Ann Griffin, Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, Susan Burkhauser, Heather L. Schwartz

Read More

Access further information on this document at American Journal of Public Health

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

OBJECTIVE: We assessed whether 2 types of public housing—scattered among market-rate housing developments or clustered in small public housing projects—were associated with the perceived health and health behaviors of residents' social networks. METHOD: Leveraging a natural experiment in Montgomery County, Maryland, in which residents were randomly assigned to different types of public housing, we surveyed 453 heads of household in 2011. We asked residents about their own health as well as the perceived health of their network members, including their neighbors. RESULTS: Residents in scattered-site public housing perceived that their neighbors were more likely to exercise than residents of clustered public housing (24.7% of network members vs 14.0%; P < .001). There were no significant differences in the proportion of network members who were perceived to have major health problems, depressed mood, poor diet, or obesity. Having more network members who smoked was associated with a significantly higher likelihood of smoking. CONCLUSIONS: Different types of public housing have a modest impact on the health composition of one's social network, suggesting the importance of housing policy for health.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.