What role does the Housing Choice Voucher program play in the economic and racial segregation of its beneficiaries? Expanding upon Metzger’s (2014) analysis of the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas with contemporaneous data, this paper substantiates the finding that voucher households are more segregated by income and race at the tract level than households that earn less than $15,000 annually. However, the evidence is mixed when the nonvoucher comparison group is more precisely defined using the specific income limits of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development voucher program and a minority household designation. Voucher households are still concentrated in communities with a higher minority population than extremely low-income renters, but there is less difference in terms of economic segregation. Compared to extremely low-income households facing a housing cost burden, voucher holders are less economically segregated, but the indices for racial segregation are mixed. Limiting the comparison to racial and ethnic minority households, we find that minority voucher households are less segregated by economic concentration than minority extremely low-income households but are more segregated by racial dissimilarity. This paper also explores the role of “source of income” nondiscrimination legislation, which is intended to overcome landlord bias against voucher holders. Contrary to previous research, this model produced weaker evidence that voucher holders are more economically or racially integrated in metropolitan areas including source of income protections. Together, these results suggest that vouchers are more successful in helping recipients reach higher-income neighborhoods than those that are more racially and ethnically diverse.
Project: Livable Lives Initiative
Metzger, M. W., & Pelletiere, D. (2015). Patterns of housing voucher use revisited: Segregation and Section 8 using updated data and more precise comparison groups, 2013 (CSD Working Paper No. 15-22). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.