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

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


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.

  • Product Description

    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

    Publication Date: December 02, 2013
    Teaching Plan: Available with Educator Access
    HKS Case Number: 2007.0
    Case Author: Anjani Datla
    Faculty Lead: Hannah Riley Bowles
    Pages (incl. exhibits): 6
    Setting: United States
    Language: English
    Funding Source: Joseph B. Tompkins, Jr. Fund for Case Study and Research
    _year: 2010-2015
    _pages: 1-15
    _geography: US & Canada
  • Warranty Information

    /review/2007_0_EducatorCopy.pdf, /teachingplan/2007_2.pdf