Evaluating Contradictory Experimental and Nonexperimental Estimates of Neighborhood Effects on Economic Outcomes for Adults
Although nonexperimental studies find robust neighborhood effects on adults, such findings have been challenged by results from the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) residential mobility experiment. Using a within-study comparison design, this article compares experimental and nonexperimental estimates from MTO and a parallel analysis of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Striking similarities were found between nonexperimental estimates based on MTO and PSID. No clear evidence was found that different estimates are related to duration of adult exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods, nonlinear effects of neighborhood conditions, magnitude of the change in neighborhood context, frequency of moves, treatment effect heterogeneity, or measurement, although the uncertainty bands around our estimates were sometimes large. Another possibility is that MTO-induced moves might have been unusually disruptive, but results are inconsistent for that hypothesis. Taken together, the findings suggest that selection bias might account for evidence of neighborhood effects on adult economic outcomes in nonexperimental studies.
Harding, DJ; Sanbonmatsu, L; Duncan, GJ; Gennetian, LA; Katz, LF; Kessler, RC; Kling, JR; Sciandra, M; Ludwig, J
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