Case #2007.0

The Geography of Poverty: Exploring the Role of Neighborhoods in the Lives of Urban, Adolescent Poor

Publication Date: December 02, 2013
Current Stock:

Educator Access

A review copy of this case is available free of charge to educators and trainers. Please create an account or sign in to gain access to this material.

Permission to Reprint

Each purchase of this product entitles the buyer to one digital file and use. If you intend to distribute, teach, or share this item, you must purchase permission for each individual who will be given access. Learn more about purchasing permission to reprint.

In the American canon of anti-poverty programs, Moving to Opportunity (MTO)--a housing experiment conducted in the 1990s--stood out for its ambitious yet simple design. Under the experiment, more than 4,600 extremely poor families were randomly assigned to receive housing vouchers in five major American cities. Just like in clinical trials, MTO gave social scientists the opportunity to untangle the effect of place on poverty, and to learn if a better neighborhood could directly improve the lives of the poor. In 2003, a mid-term evaluation of MTO revealed a controversial and surprising outcome. After being placed in neighborhoods with low poverty, teen girls appeared to benefit far more from their new surroundings than teen boys. The rigorous empirical analysis of the MTO experiment had identified important differences by gender, but could not explain the social processes or experiences that led to those differences. A different research methodology would need to examine what the quantitative data could not.

This case profiles the qualitative research conducted by Harvard sociologist Kathryn Edin and others on MTO teens. With the help of in-depth interviews the researchers offer a deeper understanding of the daily experiences and behavioral patterns that shaped the divergent outcomes between MTO male and female adolescents.

Learning Objective:
With this case students explore the functions of qualitative research, and closely examine how qualitative research can enhance the interpretation of quantitative data.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Anjani Datla
Faculty Lead:
Hannah Riley Bowles
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Joseph B. Tompkins, Jr. Fund for Case Study and Research