Published Online: May 8, 2002
Published in Print: May 8, 2002, as Children & Families

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Public Housing

At first glance, public-housing projects can seem like terrible places for children. But a new study suggests that public housing can actually have some positive effects.

The study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, shows that poor children who spent at least some time in public housing between the ages of 10 and 16 were more likely to be working as adults, and had spent less time on welfare, than those who were eligible for public housing but did not live in it.

Conducted by Sandra J. Newman, the director of the university's Institute for Policy Studies, and Joseph Harkness, a research statistician, the study also found that for every year the children lived in public housing, their annual earnings from ages 25 to 27 increased by more than $1,800 above their peers' who had not lived in public housing.

The researchers analyzed data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a survey of U.S. households conducted by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor since 1968, and matched it with lists of subsidized-housing units from the federal government and other sources.

The researchers note that the children in public housing still faced "obstacles of poverty" and were worse off on most measures than better-off youngsters not eligible for public housing. But they attributed that to their disadvantaged family backgrounds, not public housing. They conclude that living in subsidized housing may have improved outcomes for some children because it makes their families less transient and can relieve financial stress on the parents.

Mentors

Mentoring programs can improve students' attendance in school, reduce the risk of drug use, and give students a more positive attitude toward life, but only if the relationship between the mentor and the child lasts for at least a year, according to a recent analysis from Child Trends, a Washington-based nonprofit research center.

Young people are also more likely to benefit from mentoring programs if they have frequent contact with their mentors, and if the mentors know the children's families, the research shows.

In fact, if a mentor knows a child's family, that child is more likely to have a higher grade point average and enroll in college than someone who did not have as strong a relationship with a mentor.

The researchers reviewed studies on 10 mentoring programs, including national programs, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

—Linda Jacobson ljacobs@epe.org

Vol. 21, Issue 34, Page 6

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