Mitigating Families' Challenges in Choice Neighborhoods

Mitigating Families' Challenges in Choice Neighborhoods
Alexandra Derian
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The federal Choice Neighborhoods Initiative provides grants for the redevelopment of poor quality federally-subsidized housing in distressed neighborhoods. The first five neighborhoods to receive a Choice Neighborhoods implementation grant were in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle. A baseline survey of affected public housing and project-based Section 8 residents was conducted between July 2013 and May 2014. At the time, relocation had only begun in one of the five sites, and the sites were just starting to offer programming to support residents' health, employment, education, and children's wellbeing.

An Urban Institute brief summarizes the survey's findings about families with children.

Major findings:

  • In Choice Neighborhoods, the share of children living with a single parent was 93 percent in New Orleans, 91 percent in San Francisco, 91 percent in Chicago, 84 percent in Boston, and 57 percent in Seattle. Children in single-parent households, perhaps due to lower-income or higher parental stress, tend to have lower educational attainment and higher rates of behavioral problems.
  • The share of parents with less than a high school education was 65 percent at the New Orleans site, 48 percent in Boston, 47 percent in San Francisco, 39 percent in Chicago, and 36 percent in Seattle.
  • Across all sites, nearly 60 percent of parents report satisfaction with their child's school performance.
  • Parents were less likely than the national average to report being in at least good health.
  • Mental health issues appear to be present for as few as 23 percent of parents (Chicago) and as many as 46 percent (New Orleans).
  • Parents largely reported their children to be in good health, but between 14 and 20 percent said that a health care provider had indicated that the child had a limiting condition (physical health, mental health, learning disability, or other chronic health condition). In addition, child asthma rates were high in many of the neighborhoods.
  • Across all sites, around one in four parents reported that the child had changed schools for non-promotional reasons in the past two year.
  • In Chicago, where the survey was conducted after some families had been relocated, 37 percent of relocated parents reported that the child has changed schools in the past two years, compared with 19 percent who were still in their initial home. Just 58 percent of relocated parents reported that the child plays with other neighborhood children, compared with 78 percent of parents who had not yet moved.
  • Families with children reported using child services offered by the Choice Neighborhoods grantees at rates that ranged from 36 percent in New Orleans to 60 percent in San Francisco. Among families, the share using services aimed at adults ranged from 43 percent in New Orleans to 73 percent in Seattle.