Residential Mobility and Children's Social Capital: Evidence from an Experiment


  • *Direct correspondence to Becky Pettit, Department of Sociology, University of Washington, 202 Savery, Box 353340, Seattle, WA 98195 〈〉. We gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of Paul DiMaggio, Thomas Espenshade, Constance Gager, Jennifer Hochschild, I-Fen Lin, Burton Singer, and Julien Teitler. This research has been supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation, Office of Population Research, Princeton University Center Grant 5P30HD/AG32030, National Institutes of Health Training Grant T32 HD07163, and a doctoral dissertation grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Population Association of America Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, April 1998. The first-named author will share all data and coding materials with those wishing to replicate the study.


Objective. This article examines the effects of residential mobility on social connections that are likely to affect children's well-being.

Methods. We use data from a survey of participants in a housing experiment in Los Angeles, California to examine whether families that moved from public housing projects to other neighborhoods suffered short-term losses of social capital.

Results. Results indicate that residential mobility is associated with a reduced likelihood of parents talking with the parents of their children's friends. However, the effects of residential mobility on social capital are sensitive to adjustments for poverty levels in destination neighborhoods and factors that influence the probability of moving.

Conclusions. Our results suggest that at least some of the negative effects of moving shown in previous studies may be due to negative selection. That is, families that move may be less successful at developing social ties than families that do not move. This finding suggests that future research on residential mobility needs to pay closer attention to factors that influence why and where families move.