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Residential mobility and persistently depressed voting among disadvantaged adults in a large housing experiment

David Jonathan Knight, Baobao Zhang

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 2024

Baobao Zhang

Baobao Zhang

This study examines the impact of residential mobility on electoral participation among the poor by matching data from Moving to Opportunity, a U.S.-based multicity housing-mobility experiment, with nationwide individual voter data.

Nearly all participants in the experiment were Black and Hispanic families who originally lived in high-poverty public housing developments.

Notably, the study finds that receiving a housing voucher to move to a low-poverty neighborhood decreased adult participants’ voter participation for nearly two decades—a negative impact equal to or outpacing that of the most effective get-out-the-vote campaigns in absolute magnitude.

This finding has important implications for understanding residential mobility as a long-run depressant of voter turnout among extremely low-income adults.

Campbell Public Affairs Institute
306 Eggers Hall