Cover: Do the Joneses Help You Keep Up?

Do the Joneses Help You Keep Up?

A Natural Experiment in Exposure to Nonpoor Neighbors

Published in: Housing Policy Debate, Volume 25, Issue 2, pages 320-352 (2015). doi: 10.1080/10511482.2014.956324

Posted on rand.org Jul 13, 2023

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

This study capitalizes on a natural experiment in Montgomery County, Maryland, where low-income applicant families are randomly assigned to public housing that is either (a) clustered within seven public housing developments or (b) scattered into market-rate subdivisions via the county's inclusionary zoning policy. Through a survey of 453 public housing residents, we find that adults who lived in scattered public housing reported a lower proportion of low-socioeconomic status (SES) social ties generally and a lower proportion of low-SES neighbors specifically in their social networks. They also counted more high-SES individuals in their social networks, and this effect was related to the amount of time they lived in the neighborhood. Living in scattered public housing had no adverse effect on feelings of neighborhood belonging or satisfaction. The socioeconomic composition of respondents' social networks was associated with two health outcomes for respondents (smoking and depression) and modestly associated with respondents' household income.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND 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.

RAND 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.