This paper was presented at the Journal of Regional Science Workshop on Immigration at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, November 7–8, 2011, and the 2011 meetings of the North American Regional Science Council in Miami, FL. Previous versions of it and related research were presented at the 2011 mid-year meetings of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association in Washington, DC; the 2011 meetings of the European Regional Science Association in Barcelona, Spain; the 2010 meetings of the North American Regional Science Council in Denver, CO; and at research seminars at the Korean Research Institute on Human Settlements and the USCIS Office of Policy and Strategy. Background research related to this paper was presented at the 2008 meetings of the North American Regional Science Council in Brooklyn, NY. Special thanks to session participants for their helpful comments and feedback and, especially, to Randy Crane for his input on policy outcomes. John I. Carruthers dedicates his work on this project to his favorite non-U.S. citizen, Giuliana Canè.
PUBLIC AND SUBSIDIZED HOUSING AS A PLATFORM FOR BECOMING A UNITED STATES CITIZEN*
Article first published online: 12 FEB 2013
© 2013, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Journal of Regional Science
Volume 53, Issue 1, pages 60–90, February 2013
How to Cite
Carruthers, J. I., Duncan, N. T. and Waldorf, B. S. (2013), PUBLIC AND SUBSIDIZED HOUSING AS A PLATFORM FOR BECOMING A UNITED STATES CITIZEN. Journal of Regional Science, 53: 60–90. doi: 10.1111/jors.12013
- Issue published online: 12 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 12 FEB 2013
- Received: February 2012; revised: September 2012; accepted: October 2012.
- Top of page
- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- 3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- 4. DISCUSSION
- 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
ABSTRACT Each year, hundreds of thousands of people immigrate to the United States seeking a better way of life, and still hundreds of thousands more become citizens. Some spend time living in public and subsidized housing, sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and, each year, thousands of these individuals attain citizenship. This paper presents an econometric analysis of the propensity of noncitizens living in HUD-sponsored housing to naturalize. Providing housing and other forms of public assistance to noncitizens is controversial but the fact of the matter is that, under current rules, many qualify for aid so, facing that fact, an important contribution of this research is to identify the type of program that works best in the context of broader national objectives. The key finding is that the market-based approach of the housing choice voucher program—and the spatial mobility it facilitates—significantly and substantively contribute to naturalization.
- Top of page
- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- 3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- 4. DISCUSSION
- 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The title of this paper is drawn from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) 2010–2015 Strategic Plan1—specifically, from Strategic Goal 3, which is to: “utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life.” This policy statement, general as it is, is ambitious and holds wide-ranging promise for American communities. Beneath it, are more specific objectives including Sub-goal 3C, to: “utilize HUD assistance [which comes in the form of public and subsidized housing] to improve economic security and self-sufficiency.” Not only are such aspirations objectively desirable, they are empirically evaluable—a condition necessary for advancing the kind of evidence-based policy promoted by Secretary Shawn Donovan.2 Does HUD assistance improve economic security and self-sufficiency? The present work addresses that overarching question by recasting it in the following way: Does public and subsidized housing serve as a platform for becoming a citizen? In response, it presents an analysis of the propensity of noncitizens receiving such assistance to naturalize. This may initially seem like an oblique approach to evaluating the effectiveness of HUD's strategy—but it is not: citizenship opens up an array opportunities that are closed to noncitizens, and is a key marker of assimilation into mainstream American society.
Moreover, questions related to citizenship are writ large in the scheme of public policy because immigration and naturalization are among the dominant issues the federal government presently faces. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people immigrate to the United States seeking a better way of life and still hundreds of thousands more become citizens. In fiscal year 2010 alone, over a million people arrived from other parts of the world and more than 600,000 permanent residents naturalized. As shown in Figure 1, a display of the number of new permanent residents (light gray) and naturalizations (dark gray) annually for the past 100 years, the ongoing surge, which took shape about 20 years ago, surpasses even the renowned “Ellis Island era” of the early-1900s and shows no sign of letting up. At present levels, international migration accounts for fully a third of the nation's net population change, making it a fundamental matter that cuts across the entire spectrum of federal policy. But, in spite of this, the United States, unlike many other destination countries, has no cohesive framework for promoting immigrant assimilation—only a loosely connected set of agencies, including HUD, whose activities and programs may help facilitate the process. Although HUD's role in the mix is clearly smaller than that of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), it is the main cabinet-level agency dedicated to domestic urban issues. Within that frame, it is charged with working to create “strong, sustainable, and inclusive communities”—and today, circumstances dictate that immigration be moved toward the center of that mission.3 In short, analyzing naturalization outcomes among HUD program participants is both a topical and highly explicit way of evaluating the broader effectiveness of the agency.
Toward that end, the objectives of this work are to: (i) review previous research on the role of naturalization and its interaction with the welfare state in destination countries like the United States; (ii) outline paths to citizenship and document recent immigration trends, including the growth in the number of noncitizens participating in public and subsidized housing programs; (iii) estimate a series of econometric transition (probit) models characterizing naturalization outcomes among program participants; and (iv) use the estimation results to set out some observations for federal policy. The analysis, based on microdata from the Office of Public and Indian Housing's annual Family Report,4 involves all noncitizen heads of household living in HUD-sponsored housing between 2007 and 2009—a total of nearly 250,000 observations across two years of (potential) transition to citizenship. These data, though regularly reported in a spatially aggregated form under the cover of A Picture of Subsidized Households (see Taghavi, 2007) have never before been examined in such detail.
The analysis reveals, among other things, that individuals participating in voucher—as opposed to public housing—programs are significantly and substantively more likely to naturalize. This finding suggests that the kind of individual choice and spatial mobility that vouchers facilitate helps promote citizenship and, by extension, that the federal government's move toward market-based housing assistance—which was initiated with the creation of the Section 8 voucher program5 as part of the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act (see Reeder  for an early evaluation)—is in line with HUD's goal of using its assistance to improve economic security and self-sufficiency. Deservedly or not—but, where it is deserved, those responsible ought to be held accountable—public housing projects have earned a dire reputation in the United States: for many Americans, they epitomize government incompetence and, more, the worst excesses of the welfare state (Bloom, 2008) so it is encouraging to find evidence that alternative programs may act as a catalyst for assimilation. Although providing housing assistance to noncitizens may be doubly controversial (see, e.g., Borjas, 2002a) the fact is that, under current rules, many do qualify for aid6 so, facing that fact, an important policy contribution of this research is to identify the type of program that works best in the context of broader national objectives.
2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- Top of page
- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- 3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- 4. DISCUSSION
- 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Becoming a U. S. Citizen
The United States is indisputably a nation of immigrants.7 Its demographic profile, socioeconomic structure, political landscape, record of domestic and international success, and very existence are all owed, in ways large and small, to people coming to it from elsewhere in the world. As such, the United States has a well-developed legal framework for receiving immigrants and enabling them to become citizens—even compared to other destination countries, it stands out for having policies that enable high volumes of immigration, permanent residence, and naturalization. It is one of the few nations in the world that allows a continual intake of newcomers on the scale displayed in Figure 1 (Joppke, 1999; Fix, 2007) but, paradoxically, it also stands out for giving little assistance to those pursuing citizenship. Federal assimilation services are not systemically available8 so it is incumbent upon the individual to identify, navigate, and complete their own path to naturalization. As Myers (2012) notes in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, in 2012, DHS will spend just $18 million, or less than a tenth of 1 percent of its budget, on helping people assimilate. In order to find their way through the system, immigrants must rely upon their personal knowledge and acumen—or turn to resources provided by their communities, including neighborhood and/or faith-based organizations that can act in place of government (Hungerman, 2005).9
This “go it alone” approach to assimilation is in spite of the shared interest that the United States and its immigrants have in the outcome of naturalization (Aleinikoff, 2000; Aleinikoff and Klusmeyer, 2002).10 The United States permits—and, indeed, relies upon—naturalization as part of its process of nation building in order to promote its identity and values, attract human capital, and form a diverse society wherein its citizens share a common identity (CBO, 2006). For immigrants, citizenship confers an array of opportunities and rights—including all constitutional guarantees—that are not necessarily available to noncitizens. In principle, naturalization makes people members of mainstream American society and removes any distinction related to their foreign born status under the law. Immigrants acquire citizenship and become fully integrated, politically empowered members of the nation, plus their state and community of residence—they gain the right to vote, and thereby have a voice at all levels of governance. Above-and-beyond civic cohesiveness, naturalization facilitates family unification: citizens can sponsor the entry of relatives, and there is no cap on the number. Finally, in terms of the economic security and self-sufficiency that HUD policy aims to advance, citizenship opens up a much wider set of living and employment opportunities. In sum, naturalization is a fundamental marker of assimilation and, ultimately, is key to becoming a fully productive member of American society (Borjas, 1995b, 2010).
In practice, there are two paths that people follow toward citizenship. As shown in Figure 2, the first path is direct: an individual is granted admission and permanent residency via a “green card,” making them a legal permanent resident who is able to work and, within five years or so, eligible for naturalization. The second path, followed by more than half of all immigrants, is indirect: an individual is first granted admission on a temporary basis—for example, as a student or because they have specialized skills11—and later attains permanent resident status. Dependents of people obtaining such visas may come into the country on special visas for dependents of temporary workers, adding yet another wrinkle of complexity to noncitizen residency.
Irrespective of the particular path taken, permanent residency in the United States is a necessary condition for naturalization. The country's admissions policies have four main objectives—to: (i) unify families; (ii) meet labor demands; (iii) provide asylum for refugees and other persecuted people; and (iv) ensure diversity in the population (see CBO, 2006). These objectives are reflected in Figure 3, which traces out the number of new permanent residents annually by major category of admission from 2000 to 2009. The five lines, which all register on the left-hand y-axis, measure the percentage of new permanent residents in each category of admission and the gray backdrop, which registers on the right-hand y-axis and is based on the same data that are shown Figure 1, measures the volume of new permanent residents. The figure shows that family unification, comprised of the “Immediate Relatives” and “Family Sponsored” categories, is by far the most common channel. The next most common channels are “Employment Based” and “Refugee,” which average 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively. The least common channel is “Diversity,” which accounts for less than 50,000 people a year—but this category is still noteworthy because it is important for countries that do not have a long history of sending immigrants to the United States.12
Despite of what looks to be a highly ordered approach to admitting immigrants, there is no national framework for promoting naturalization. After about five years of being a legal permanent resident—a term reduced to three years for those who are married to citizens—noncitizens may apply for citizenship and, at this point, they must: (i) pay an appreciable application fee; (ii) pass a background check; (iii) demonstrate proficiency in both English and American civics; and (iv) pledge loyalty to the United States. Because of the complexity of completing the circuit from temporary/permanent resident to citizen—coupled with the fact that people must go it alone—overall naturalization rates have declined markedly over the past 50 years, from 80 percent in 1950 to less than 40 percent in 200413 (Bloemraad, 2006). Still, DHS reports that, in recent years, there has been an uptick: 10-year naturalization rates have gradually increased since the 1970s, largely due to growth in the sheer number of legal permanent residents in the country (Baker, 2007).
Since the path toward citizenship is so individualized, a number of factors, including personal attributes, socioeconomic circumstances, and environmental conditions, influence the outcome (Yang, 1994; Bloemraad, 2006; Duncan and Waldorf, 2009; Bolt, Sule, and Deborah, 2010; Xie and Greenman, 2011). Research shows that age, ethnicity, gender, race, nation of origin, and related personal attributes, all of which affect an individual's ability to assimilate generally—weigh on naturalization. The influence of national origin is particularly powerful: for example, statistically: 68 percent of Vietnamese immigrants naturalize, compared to only 18 percent of Mexican immigrants (Cornwell, 2006). (This kind of difference is also present in homeownership rates, another marker of assimilation: Painter, Stuart, and Dowell , Borjas [2002b], and Yu and Myers  find, variously, that the gap in the homeownership rate between citizens and noncitizens has widened in recent years and that the size of the gap is mediated by nation of origin.) Furthermore, people's socioeconomic circumstances—educational attainment, income level, language competency, duration of stay, and more—also influence their likelihood of attaining citizenship. Apart from these individual factors, environmental conditions that decrease (increase) the assorted costs of naturalization increase (decrease) the likelihood. Of particular importance, are neighborhoods having large numbers of foreign-born citizens14—these enclaves of naturalized immigrants act as sources of information on the application process and contain peers who have achieved citizenship and the benefits of it (see Borjas, 1998; Duncan and Waldorf, 2009). The relevance of this kind of environmental effect cannot be understated because, in the absence of a cohesive policy framework to promote assimilation, immigrants have only themselves and their communities to rely upon.15
Interaction between Immigration and the Welfare State
As mentioned, providing housing and other public assistance to noncitizens is doubly controversial—especially given the general prejudice against welfare recipients that pervades the United States and the growing national backlash against immigration (Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote, 2001; Partridge and Rickman, 2006). For one thing, some question whether noncitizens should be eligible for welfare at all and, further, argue that the availability of benefits may encourage poor people to immigrate to the country, and certain locations within it, by acting as a so-called “welfare magnets” for the needy. For another, the merits and fairness of welfare of all sorts are a topic of ongoing—and often bitter—debate, and thorny questions about whether it really promotes economic security and self-sufficiency or, perversely, holds people back loom large. Is immigration sensitive to welfare magnets? And, does housing assistance ultimately benefit its recipients?
First, there are really two broad, interrelated issues embedded in the matter of welfare magnets: (i) the general possibility that immigrants make greater use of public assistance than the native population; and (ii) the specific extent to which the location choices of immigrants are influenced by place-to-place variation—namely, across states and localities—in the availability of benefits. An early analysis of the propensity of immigrants to be on welfare by Blau (1984) found that, prima facie, immigrants do seem to make more use of it: income transfers were 52 percent higher among immigrant households with male heads and 13 percent higher among those with female heads. But the analysis also found that the differential evaporates after accounting for household characteristics and, further, that immigrants were considerably less likely to participate in welfare programs compared to native households having similar characteristics. Overall, the work, based on data from the late-1970s, concludes that the behavioral mechanism at work is means—or, in other words, income and related household attributes—not immigrant status. Similar analyses by Tienda and Jensen (1986) and Jensen (1988) involving data from 1970 and 1980 came to the same conclusion, and the explanation extends to more recent years: as Borjas, (1994, p. 1702) notes, “it is not ‘immigrant-ness’ that generates high welfare participation rates in the immigrant population … it is the socioeconomic characteristics of the immigrant population.” The point for present purposes is that immigrant status and socioeconomic conditions need to be disentangled when making judgments about the propensity of noncitizens to use the welfare state.
But it is precisely for this reason that geography counts: where different segments of the immigrant population end up locating is of great economic, political, and social importance. As discussed throughout (and illustrated in Figure 1) immigration to the United States is surging, and Partridge and Rickman (2006) document significant place-to-place variation in the immigrant population, plus a corresponding degree of variation in the spatial concentration of poor among the immigrant population. As a result of the sheer volume of newcomers, large numbers of immigrants receive public assistance and there is good evidence that a systematic sorting process leads poor immigrants to coalesce in states having generous benefits (Borjas, 1999a).
To explore this sorting behavior, Borjas and Trejo (1993) develop a theoretical framework positing that immigrants evaluate circumstances at both their origin and destination before moving. Their empirical results uphold the theory and show that a small number of source country characteristics—per capita gross national product (GNP), income inequality, and refugee status—explain most of the variation in the percentage of immigrants who receive welfare. There is also systematic variation in the kinds of welfare used by natives and immigrants: Borjas and Hilton (1996) find that utilization of cash benefits—including Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and other forms of income maintenance—is about the same between natives and immigrants, that but immigrants make greater use of noncash benefits, including food stamps and the kind of housing assistance under examination here, and do so for longer periods of time. In terms of where these individuals come to live, the theory of welfare magnets (Borjas, 1999a) suggests that, if they engage in income maximizing behavior, immigrants, who face the very large fixed costs of international migration, have an incentive to ensure that they end up in states having strong safety nets. Since immigrants are a self-selected group that has chosen to incur the costs of migration, those that receive welfare are observed to cluster disproportionately in states, like California, offering generous benefits.16 Natives do not have the same incentive, because the high cost of (internal) migration does not offset the potential benefit of greater assistance the way migration to the United States from a disadvantaged country does. In this way, welfare magnets encourage not just the flow of immigration, but also direct where migrants in economic hardship choose to locate within the country.
Moving on, the second issue is the extent to which federal housing assistance benefits its recipients (beyond sheltering them) by promoting economic security and self-sufficiency. In order to draw some parameters around the scale of the aid, Figure 4 presents the amount of federal spending on housing assistance each year from 2000 to 2011, in billions of 2012 constant dollars—in order to help keep the volume of this spending in perspective, the figure also traces out annual expenditures on housing assistance as a percentage of all spending. The figure shows that expenditures on public and subsidized housing, which account for an average of about 1.6 percent of federal spending per year, remained fairly constant, averaging about $42 billion a year, through 2008, after which they rose by about $10 billion each year: average spending between 2009 and 2011 was over $60 billion per year—apparently an outcome of the “Great Recession” of December 2007–June 200917 and its fallout.
While housing assistance clearly helps people on an ongoing basis by providing them with shelter, the evidence related to its other impacts is ambiguous. Shroder (2002) provides an extensive review of the pre-2000 pool of research on outcomes related to public and assisted housing and finds that it has little or no effect on labor force participation, an undetermined effect on the accumulation of human capital, a strong association with single-parent households, and that it concentrates recipients in poor neighborhoods—above all when the assistance is in the form of public housing (see also Wilson, 1990; Massy and Denton, 1993; and Massy and Kanaiaupuni, 1993). Overall, Shroder (2002) concludes that additional research is needed to evaluate the socioeconomic impacts of public and assisted housing.
Since that survey, only a small amount of research dealing with housing specifically has appeared: (i) in an evaluation of voucher program participants in the San Francisco Bay area, Lahr and Gibbs (2002) find that, while vouchers increase residential mobility, particularly from urban to suburban locations, a great deal of spatial “friction” remains, so household characteristics—specifically income, and its connection to employment—are important mediators of relocation decisions; (ii) in a quasi-experimental analysis of minority families residing in public and private housing in high-poverty neighborhoods in Yonkers, Fauth, Leventhal, and Brooks-Gunn (2004) find that those who relocated to public housing in middle-class neighborhoods experienced a variety of quality of life improvements and were more likely to be employed afterwards; (iii) in a study of public housing residents in Maryland, Ludwig, Duncan, and Pinkstion (2005) find that households offered vouchers restricted for use in low-poverty areas eventually require less welfare and that unrestricted vouchers do not produce the same outcome, especially without the intervention of counseling; (iv) in a review of additional recent research, Shroder (2010) finds that housing subsidies may have a modest negative effect on earnings by acting as a disincentive for recipients to pursue earned income; (v) in work using the 1979 data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Aratani (2010) finds a minor deleterious effect on Blacks who spend some portion of their adolescence in public housing—somewhat reduced housing-related self-sufficiency later in life—but concludes that this impact is likely outweighed by the alternative of not previously having a secure living situation; and (vi) in an examination of voucher program participants in Wisconsin, Carlson et al. (2012) find that vouchers have little or no effect on employment and a negative effect on earnings, but that the effect on earnings fades over time. Though not exhaustive, this summary of recent research indicates that the impacts of housing assistance on the economic security and self-sufficiency remain an open question—one that deserves to be investigated, particularly given that it now accounts for over $60 billion worth of federal spending each year.
Noncitizens in Public and Subsidized Housing: PRWORA and Beyond
In 1996, the PRWORA sought to address concerns related to the issues outlined in the preceding section by, among other things, placing limits on the duration of federal assistance (60 months for most kinds) and denying noncitizens access to welfare programs; subsequent changes enabled benefits to some noncitizens to be grandfathered in. A key feature of PRWORA was that states were granted the right to decide the level of access to welfare programs available to immigrants—a form of jurisdiction they previously did not have. Initially, there was some concern that this provision would ignite a “race to the bottom,” especially in the case of state-provided benefits, wherein states would refuse as many social services to noncitizens as possible (see, e.g., Fix and Passel, 1999). However, a post-PRWORA analysis by Zimmerman and Tumlin (1999) reveals that, by-and-large, this did not occur: the majority of states continued to provide welfare benefits to immigrants who lived in the country prior to the bill's enactment, even when programs were funded locally. Indeed, as Borjas (2002a) documents in a report written for the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies,18 many states—chiefly those with large immigrant populations—stepped in and effectively neutralized the impacts of PRWORA by replacing benefits rescinded by the federal government.
A contemporaneous analysis also published by the Center for Immigration Studies—entitled Back Where We Started—goes further, concluding that the number of immigrant households receiving welfare increased, not decreased, in the wake of PRWORA (Camarota, 2003). Recently, the Center has documented that, at present, as a result of the large numbers of low-skilled people being admitted to the United States, close to 60 percent of immigrant households having children (dependents under the age of 18) receive some kind of welfare, compared to about 40 percent of native households (Camarota, 2011). This latter report calls out housing assistance as a way that noncitizens use the welfare state, noting that its rate of use by the immigrant population is somewhat higher than that of natives. The reason for this is that, in spite of PRWORA, it is still possible for noncitizens to obtain access to federal housing programs. Eligibility is mainly limited to citizens, but access is also extended to noncitizens in certain situations—mainly19: (i) noncitizens who were 62 years of age and receiving assistance as of September 6, 1996, the date PRWORA took effect; (ii) noncitizens admitted for permanent residence; and (iii) noncitizens who are present in the United States as a result of being in refugee status. A few other categories exist, but for more ambiguous circumstances that are at the discretion of the Attorney General. In order to qualify for housing assistance, noncitizens must provide documentation of their eligibility—but once they do, they may host ineligible noncitizens, though the benefit package is prorated in such a way that ineligible household members do not factor the amount of assistance received.20
At present, there are two main types of HUD-sponsored housing: public housing projects and private units rented via the housing choice voucher program. The agency's website summarizes the two programs as follows:
- • Public housing.21“Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments.”
- • Housing choice vouchers.22“The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.”
Both programs are administered at the local level, by the ∼3,300 housing authorities (the reason for the ∼ is that the exact number of housing authorities is unknown to the analysts) scattered across the country. And, since programs are administered locally, participants’ ability to choose between public housing and a voucher program varies greatly from place-to-place.23 The major difference between the two is that public housing is publicly owned and fixed in place while the housing choice voucher program utilizes privately owned housing and enables participants to choose where to live by seeking out the best alternative in the rental market, given their individual circumstances.24 Further, whereas public housing is an “in-kind” type of program, the housing choice voucher program more closely resembles a cash transfer, which helps to maximize the well-being of recipients (Brueckner, 2011).25 The choice—and spatial mobility—that vouchers facilitate lies at the heart of the type of people-based policy (see, e.g., Glaeser, 2007, 2011) that many economists advocate: modern market economies, like that of the United States, are grounded in the idea that the well-being of society is maximized when people are free to choose according to own individual preferences and constraints. In this way, the housing choice voucher program is intended to deliver housing assistance with a minimum of government paternalism.
Coming back to the matter at hand, a query—conducted in the opening stages of this research—of HUD's sponsored housing database, which contains citizenship information on all program participants, corroborates the assertion (Camarota, 2011) that increasing numbers of noncitizens have made use of housing assistance in recent years and reveals the specific number of individuals involved. The data for 2000–2009 are shown in Figure 5, which registers the number of noncitizen heads of household living in public and subsidized housing annually along with the number of new permanent residents on the left-hand y-axis, and the percent of all noncitizens that are of ineligible status on the right-hand y-axis. The figure illustrates that, as the number of individuals attaining new permanent resident status has grown, so, too, has the number of noncitizens receiving HUD-based assistance—from about 175,000 heads of household in 2000 to about 251,000 in 2009. Additional detail is provided in Table 1, which breaks down the total number (counting all household members) of citizens, eligible noncitizens, and ineligible noncitizens, plus two residual groups, living in public and assisted housing in 2008 by public housing and housing choice vouchers, plus one residual category.26 During that year, there were a total of 7,044,066 individuals receiving housing assistance, 238,013 and 28,365 of whom were eligible and ineligible noncitizens, respectively.27 About 30 percent of citizens participated in public housing programs and about 69.5 percent participated in voucher programs; about 38 percent of eligible noncitizens participated in public housing programs and about 60.5 percent participated in voucher programs; and about 55 percent of ineligible noncitizens participated in public housing programs and about 44 percent participated in voucher programs. Together, Figure 5 and Table 1 document that there has been an upward trend in the number of noncitizens living in HUD-sponsored housing—though it is worth noting that noncitizens still represent less than 4 percent of all individuals receiving assistance—and that citizens and noncitizens have very similar rates of participation in the two main programs.
|Project-Based Public Housing||Housing Choice Voucher||Mod—Rehab||Row Totals|
|United States citizen||2,020,113||29.86%||4,696,277||69.42%||48,669||0.72%||6,765,059|
Having arrived at these facts (and having previously established the importance of citizenship for individuals wishing to become members of mainstream American society) the focus returns to the research question posed in the opening paragraph of this paper: does public and subsidized housing serve as a platform for becoming a citizen? The empirical analysis investigates.
3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- Top of page
- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- 3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- 4. DISCUSSION
- 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Data and Econometric Specification
The empirical analysis is based on microdata from the Office of Public and Indian Housing's (PIH's) annual Family Report28 and it involves all noncitizen heads of household living in HUD-sponsored housing between 2007 and 2009.29 These microdata, which are distributed via the Office of Policy Development and Research in a spatially aggregated form,30 are not publicly available but were obtained via a written request to the agency for the specific purpose of conducting this work. The PIH data are collected annually and are geo-referenced—enabling individuals to be tracked through time and across space. They include numerous individual- and household-level variables and, because they are geo-referenced, may readily be joined with other spatial data, including the kind of neighborhood characteristics and other information typically used in research on immigration and naturalization outcomes. The analysis is restricted to heads of household because they are instrumental to both a family's decision to reside in HUD-sponsored housing and its decision to pursue citizenship.
The three years of data yield two years of potential transition to citizenship (2007–2008 and 2008–2009) and there are a total of 120,791 and 126,765 individuals in the two timeframes, respectively. Note that the samples are not mutually exclusive: as long as they are still in HUD-sponsored housing, individuals that do not attain citizenship between 2007 and 2008 remain in the analysis between 2008 and 2009. Tables 2(A) and (B) list the numbers of individuals involved by state, along with the numbers of them that participated in the housing choice voucher program, relocated between years, and naturalized between years. Across both years, just over 60 percent nationally31 were in voucher programs, about 8 percent relocated, and around 2.5 percent naturalized. The latter of these facts—that, each year, thousands of noncitizens living public and subsidized housing attain United States citizenship—is a striking discovery all by itself.32 Figures 6(a) and (b) show the spatial distribution of individuals across the continental United States and Figures 7 and 8 show their distribution within the Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington regions. These tables and figures form a portrait of the population of noncitizens living in HUD-sponsored housing and illustrate the geographic richness of the data.
|Number||Percent Total||Number||Percent Total||Number||Percent Total|
The individual- and household-level variables engaged in the analysis were necessarily limited to what can be drawn from information contained in PIH's Family Report, which is first-and-foremost a means testing instrument—but other variables were identified on the basis of the previous research (see, especially, Duncan and Waldorf, 2009; and Borjas, 1999a) documented in the background discussion. The unit of analysis is noncitizen heads of household living in HUD-sponsored housing and the dependent variable, naturalize, is a binary variable set to one if the individual attained citizenship from one year to the next and zero otherwise. Six categories make up the set of explanatory variables: (i) individual characteristics, containing age, a female indicator, an Asian indicator, a Black indicator, and a Hispanic indicator; (ii) household characteristics, containing size, income, and a set of indicators describing elderly, disability, and dependent circumstances; (iii) neighborhood characteristics containing, at the census tract level, median household income, the number of residents who are foreign-born citizens, the number of residents who are foreign-born noncitizens, the percent of housing built prior to 1940, and the percent of workers who commute more than 45 minutes to their job; (iv) locational characteristics, containing distance to the center of the nearest core-based statistical area, a measure of how urban the location is, and distance to the center of the nearest adjacent neighborhood, a measure of density; (v) PIH program characteristics, containing sojourn, or years in the program and a housing choice voucher indicator, partitioned by whether or not the household relocated between the two years—so that voucher-relocate is set to one if the individual is in the voucher program, and relocated between years and zero otherwise, and voucher-no-relocate is set to one if the individual is in the voucher program but did not relocate and zero otherwise; and (vi) State, containing fixed effects for each state (excluding California) plus Washington, DC. More detailed variable definitions are provided in Table 3 and descriptive statistics of all variables, including the dependent variable, are listed in Table 4.
|Naturalize||Indicator: set to 1 of the individual attained citizenship, 0 otherwise|
|Age||The individual's age, in years|
|Female||Indicator: set to 1 if the individual is a female, 0 otherwise|
|Asian||Indicator: set to 1 if the individual is Asian, 0 otherwise|
|Black||Indicator: set to 1 if the individual is Black, 0 otherwise|
|Hispanic||Indicator: set to 1 if the individual is Hispanic, 0 otherwise|
|HH Size||The total number of household members|
|ln Income||The total household income, in natural log form|
|H1: Elderly-not-disabled||Indicator: set to 1 if there are no children in the household and the head-of-household is elderly but not disabled, 0 otherwise|
|H2: Disabled-not-elderly||Indicator: set to 1 if there are no children in the household and the head-of-household is disabled but not elderly, 0 otherwise|
|H4: Children-elderly||Indicator: set to 1 if there are children in the household and the head-of-household is elderly but not disabled, 0 otherwise|
|H5: Children-disabled||Indicator: set to 1 if there are children in the household and the head-of-household is disabled, 0 otherwise|
|H6: Children||Indicator: set to 1 if there are children in the household but the head-of-household is not elderly and is not disabled, 0 otherwise|
|ln Median HH Income||The median household income of the census tract, in natural log form|
|FB Naturalized||The number of residents in the census tract who are foreign-born citizens|
|FB Noncitizen||The number of residents in the census tract who are foreign-born citizens|
|% Housing < 1940||The percent of housing in the census tract that was built prior to 1940|
|% Commute >45 minutes||The percent of workers in the census tract who commute more than 45|
|ln Dist. from CBSA center||Distance in kilometers between the neighborhood and the nearest core-based statistical area, in natural log form|
|ln Dist. from Near. Tract||Distance in kilometers between the neighborhood and the nearest neighborhood, in natural log form|
|PIH program characteristics|
|Sojourn||The number of years the individual has spent in PIH programs|
|Voucher-relocate||Indicator: set to 1 if the individual is in a voucher program and relocated, 0 otherwise|
|Voucher-no-relocate||Indicator: set to 1 if the individual is in a voucher program and did not relocate, 0 otherwise|
|2007: n= 120,816||2008: n= 126,812|
|Mean||Std. Dev.||Min.||Max.||Mean||Std. Dev.||Min.||Max.|
|ln Median HH Income||10.26||0.49||0.00||12.21||10.24||0.48||0.00||12.12|
|% Housing <1940||0.19||0.19||0.00||1.00||0.19||0.19||0.00||1.00|
|% Commute >45 minutes||0.21||0.15||0.00||1.00||0.22||0.16||0.00||1.00|
|ln Dist. from CBSA Center||9.25||0.80||4.16||12.48||9.25||0.80||4.16||12.48|
|ln Dist. from Near. Tract||6.60||0.70||4.82||11.20||6.59||0.70||4.82||10.72|
|PIH Program characteristics|
As explained, the dependent variable of the analysis, naturalize, is a binary variable set to one if the head of household naturalized between 2007 and 2008 (3,291 instances out of 120,791) and 2008 and 2009 (3,246 instances out of 126,765) and zero otherwise. Thus, the focus is on individuals, i, living in HUD-sponsored housing that were noncitizens at time t–1 (2007 and 2008, respectively) and the object of the analysis is to model their propensity to naturalize by time t (2008 and 2009, respectively). Put mathematically, the dependent variable, Yit, is a Bernoulli-distributed random variable describing whether the individual became a citizen (Yit= 1) or not (Yit, = 0) and the goal is to uncover systematic variation in the probability of transition: Pr (Yit= 1).
Probit is an econometric method of measuring the effects of a vector of exogenous factors—in this case, composed of the six categories of variables identified—on the probability of transition to citizenship.33 In the probit framework, Yit is the observed outcome of an unobservable latent variable, , that is assumed to be linearly related to a set of exogenous variables, X:
where is a vector of parameters describing the influence of X on and is the random error term. The link between the latent variable, , and the Bernoulli-distributed random variable Yit is defined as:
The top expression is a so-called “indicator expression” (Wooldridge, 2009, p. 576) because it takes on a value of 1 if it is true. In reality, does not have a well-defined value because it measures the (unobservable) probability that each individual attains citizenship between years, given X. So, the dependence of on X is instead transferred to the success probability of the observed Bernoulli variable Yit, resulting in a model of the probability that an individual obtains citizenship:
Because (and ) are distributed, the probability of naturalization, the observed outcome, given X is:
where is the cumulative distribution function of the standard normal distribution. For a sample with information on individuals and k exogenous variables, the likelihood function, , takes on the form:
which, in turn, is transformed into the more the commonly used log likelihood function:
Maximizing yields the maximum likelihood estimate of the parameter vector , which describes the influence of X on . Once these parameters are obtained, the direction of influence of each of the exogenous variables is known, but ascertaining the magnitude of their influence requires calculating their so-called “marginal effects.” The marginal influence of an indicator variable—the two housing choice voucher indicators—is obtained by differencing estimated cumulative distribution functions with that variable set to 1 and 0:
where, in , the indicator is set to 1 and, in , the indicator is set to 0. The marginal influence of continuous variables is more complicated to calculate but, in short, is obtained by taking the partial derivative of and the variable of interest: . For further details on probit models, maximum likelihood estimation, interpretation of the parameters, and the derivation of marginal effects, see: Maddala (1983), Ben-Akiva and Lerman (1985), Greene (2003), Angrist and Pischke (2009), Cameron and Trivedi (2009, 2010), and Wooldridge (2009).
The data and analytical framework described above were combined to estimate separate models for each of the two transition periods, 2007–2008 and 2008–2009. The maximum likelihood parameter estimates and associated marginal effects are listed in Table 5.34 Most of the explanatory variables are statistically significant at a 95 percent or greater confidence interval and carry sensible signs. Moreover, both the parameter estimates and marginal effects are remarkably consistent across the two models—which is encouraging because this is how science is supposed to work: repeated experiments involving different samples converge on a common set of findings. Going down through the list of explanatory variables, the next paragraphs provide an overview of the estimation results and discuss the marginal effects associated with the housing choice voucher program and the state fixed effects.
|Naturalize: Noncitizen –> Citizen|
|ln Median HH Income||0.029739n/s||0.001628||1.34||0.031025n/s||0.001570||1.40|
|% Housing <1940||0.115782**||0.006337||2.06||−0.112726*||−0.005703||−1.94|
|% Commute >45 minutes||−0.159996*||−0.008757||−1.67||−0.305457***||−0.015454||−3.19|
|ln Dist. from CBSA Center||0.031896***||0.001746||2.79||0.021413*||0.001083||1.88|
|ln Dist. from Near. Tract||−0.053590***||−0.002933||−2.88||−0.074197***||−0.003754||−3.99|
|PIH Program characteristics|
|State fixed effects|
To begin, at a personal level, the individual characteristics category shows that younger people, women, and Asians have higher probabilities of attaining citizenship and that Hispanics have a lower probability; the Hispanic indicator does not come in significant in the 2007–2008 model but it does carry a negative sign—and it comes in negative and highly significant in the 2008–2009 model. The Black indicator variable carries a negative sign in each model but does not come in statistically significant. Next, the household characteristics category shows that heads of larger households have lower probabilities of attaining citizenship, and provides some evidence (in the 2008–2009 model) that individuals with higher incomes have greater probabilities. The “H61: … H66:” indicators—family descriptors derived from the PIH Family Report—are included as controls for other mediating and/or extenuating circumstances, including disability status and the presence of children, but, as amalgamated variables, they are difficult to interpret directly. In this sense, they just represent qualitative controls.
Then, in the spatial context, the neighborhood characteristics category illustrates the power of the enclave effects called out earlier: individuals living in census tracts with greater numbers of other naturalized immigrants have higher probabilities of attaining citizenship, while the opposite is true for individuals living in neighborhoods with greater numbers of immigrants who have not attained citizenship. The percent of housing built before 1940, a general control for housing quality, has an alternating sign pattern, so yields no meaningful interpretation. But the percent of workers who commute 45 minutes or more to get to their job has a consistent negative influence on the probability of naturalization, indicating that commuting, a major—and often stressful (see, e.g., Frumkin, Frank, and Jackson, 2004; Ewing et al., 2011)—time sink, acts as an impediment.35 The locational characteristics category reveals that individuals living farther from CBSA centers—in more suburban, exurban, and/or rural locations—have a higher probability of naturalizing but, at the same time, that density (the inverse of distance from the nearest census tract) increases the probability of naturalization, perhaps by enhancing network effects. As a set, the results associated with these first four categories of variables are consistent with previous research (Yang, 1994; Bloemraad, 2006; Duncan and Waldorf, 2009; Bolt et al., 2010; Xie and Greenman, 2011) and demonstrate the wide variety of personal and locational factors that matter to natuarlization.
The remaining two categories of explanatory variables are policy related. In the PIH program characteristics category, the sojourn variable reveals that the duration spent in HUD-sponsored housing is negatively related to naturalization, and the two voucher indicators show that individuals participating in the housing choice voucher program, as opposed to public housing, are significantly more likely to attain citizenship. Moreover, the variable is partitioned by those who relocated and those who did not: about 10 percent relocated and 90 percent did not, respectively, in each year, so it provides insight related to the kind of spatial decision making that vouchers are designed to facilitate. (Recall that voucher-relocate is set to one if the individual is in the voucher program and relocated between years and zero otherwise and voucher-no-relocate is set to one if the individual is in the voucher program but did not relocate and zero otherwise; public housing is the excluded alternative.) Both partitions of the housing choice voucher variable are highly significant and positive—but it is the voucher-relocate partition that is especially interesting: the marginal effects indicate that individuals participating in the housing choice voucher program that also relocated were almost 7 percent more likely to attain citizenship than individuals participating in public housing programs; those that stayed put were also more likely, but only about 1 percent so. And, it bears repeating here, that the estimated parameters and their associated marginal effects are essentially identical across the two models.
Last, the array of state fixed effects illustrates the manner in which citizenship outcomes vary systematically from state-to-state due to (unobserved) policy and other differences among them; California is the omitted category, so all of the effects are benchmarked with respect to it. There are interesting patterns of positive and negative associations, but the marginal effects illustrate that, in the main, the probabilities deviate by ±1 percent from state-to-state around the country—a magnitude consistent with the fairly even spatial patterns easily visible in Figures 6–8.
The results just described yield a direct response to the question that motivated this work: does public and subsidized housing serve as a platform for becoming a citizen? The answer is, yes, it does—more than 200,000 noncitizens presently live in HUD-sponsored housing and, each year, thousands of these people naturalize. What is more, they are significantly and substantively more likely to do so if they participate in the housing choice voucher program as opposed to public housing. Although it is possible that voucher participants are somehow more predisposed to pursuing citizenship—thereby raising the specter of selection bias—this is unlikely, given the geographic scope of the data, plus the fact that the availability of public housing versus vouchers varies greatly across the ∼3,300 local housing authorities involved. Some evidence of the exogeneity of program type is documented in Tables 2(A) and (B) and Figure 6, which together illustrate the spatial variation in the rate at which vouchers are used. Ultimately, however, there is no way to explore the possibility of self-selection with the data at hand, so it is fair to concede that it is possible, if not necessarily probable. In any case, it is, of course, not the vouchers, in-and-of-themselves, that contribute to naturalization, but, rather, the spatial mobility they enable. Neoclassical economic theory hinges on the idea that whatever outcome an individual is after—be it citizenship, or any other form of economic security and self-sufficiency—they are more likely to realize that outcome if they are able to make decisions according to their own preferences and constraints. This is precisely the logic behind market-based assistance programs like the housing choice voucher program—and that logic is strongly supported by the evidence presented here. Some general observations for federal policy come next.
- Top of page
- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- 3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- 4. DISCUSSION
- 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
In January 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Cecilia Muñoz, a daughter of Bolivian immigrants, and a leading advocate of immigrant civil rights, to the head of his Domestic Policy Council (DPC). The DPC is the organization responsible for coordinating domestic policymaking within the White House, advising the president on domestic policy, and representing the president's domestic priorities to congress.36 The choice of Muñoz to head the DPC, which deals with much more than immigration, seems emblematic of just how significant the issue presently is to the country: it is among the strongest signals possible that the administration (reelected in November, 2012) views immigration as a dominant issue. In spite of this importance, as detailed in the background discussion, the United States has no cohesive framework for promoting immigrant assimilation but, even still, what is does have, is an array of agencies, including HUD, whose programs and policies may help the process. Beyond the general observation that such a framework be developed, the findings reported here point to some more specific recommendations.
Foremost, the preliminary finding that led to the detailed analysis contained in this paper—that many immigrants spend time living in HUD-sponsored housing and that, each year, thousands of these individuals attain United States citizenship—ought help temper concerns, among researchers, policymakers, and the public at large, about noncitizens making undue use of the welfare state. There is a systematic pattern of those living in public and subsidized housing attaining citizenship, and, as argued in the background discussion, this outcome is indisputably a step toward greater economic security and self-sufficiency. Moreover, it is directly in line with the broader national objectives of federal immigration policy: unifying families, meeting labor demands, providing asylum for refugees and other persecuted people, and ensuring diversity in the population. These are laudable objectives that are important to the country as a whole. That many immigrants arriving on American shores do so in need—“give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” as the base of the Statue of Liberty reads—is virtually tautological: international migration is costly, both financially, and personally and rational individuals would not be willing to incur those costs if they did not expect to improve their lot in life (see Borjas, 1989, 1999b, 2010). There is evidence that immigration has net benefits to the United States (see, variously, Borjas, 1994, 1995b, 1999b, 2010; Ottaviano and Peri, 2005, 2006; Ottaviano and Prarolo, 2009) and, for this reason, it is perhaps reasonable for the nation—whether individuals like it or not—to expect to help some of these people make the transition to becoming productive members of mainstream American society.
Next, the clear implication of the econometric analysis is that, in terms of housing, voucher programs work better than project-based programs. Enabling individuals to find housing via the private rental market makes it possible for them to work out their own life solutions, according to idiosyncratic preferences and constraints. As noted, it is not vouchers themselves that promote naturalization, but, instead, the choice and spatial mobility they facilitate—a conclusion highlighted by the partitioning of the of the voucher variable according to those who relocated and those who did not. Individuals in voucher programs are more likely to naturalize than individuals living in public housing, and, what is more, they are an estimated 7 percent more likely to attain citizenship if they relocated during the time period they transitioned to citizenship. Though it is impossible to know what is going on underneath—that is, what the exact link between relocation and naturalization is in each circumstance—a general inference is that the ability to choose where to live, plus if and when to relocate, matters. In this way, the findings of the analysis support HUD's move toward market-based housing assistance, initiated in the 1970s with the creation of the voucher program, as a means of using its assistance to improve economic security and self-sufficiency. To the extent that the result generalizes to other forms of assistance—an empirical question that can and should be examined—the government should take seriously the possibility that programs resembling cash transfers are more likely to maximize the well-being of recipients (and thereby American society as a whole) than in-kind programs, like project-based housing.
Last, deservedly or not, public housing has earned an awful reputation in the United States—there is no getting around the fact that projects like Pruitt Igoe, in St. Louis, and the Robert Taylor Homes, in Chicago, earned their notoriety as monuments of failed federal policy (both have been demolished). Even still, not all public housing has been a failure and certain housing authorities—the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in particular37—stand out as models of success (Bloom, 2008). And, in the two time periods covered by this analysis, 2007–2008 and 2008–2009, 826 (out of 44,298) and 830 (out of 47,533) individuals living in public housing naturalized. So, while the housing choice voucher program appears to be more effective in this regard, it is also the case that project-based housing helps. The bottom line is that, together, public and subsidized housing act as an important platform for becoming a U.S. citizen—and, given the importance of the issue, federal policymakers should take note and assign credit where credit is due.
5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
- Top of page
- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- 3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- 4. DISCUSSION
- 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
This paper began with four specific objectives—to: (i) review previous research on the role of naturalization and its interaction with the welfare state in destination countries like the United States; (ii) outline paths to citizenship and document recent immigration trends, including the growth in the number of noncitizens participating in public and subsidized housing programs; (iii) estimate a series of binary transition models, implemented as probit models, characterizing naturalization outcomes among program participants; and (iv) use the estimation results to set out some observations for federal policy. Those objectives have been met, revealing, among other things, that individuals participating in voucher—as opposed to public housing—programs are significantly and substantively more likely to naturalize. This finding, which is magnified by relocation, suggests that the kind of individual choice and spatial mobility that vouchers facilitate helps promote citizenship and indicates that HUD's approach to using its programs to promote economic security and self-sufficiency is sound. This conclusion does not supersede the fact that there is no systematic framework for promoting assimilation, but it does suggest that federal aid, however loosely arrayed, is useful to those noncitizens able to obtain it—and beneficial to the nation as a whole.
Produced by the administration of President Barack Obama. See: http://portal.hud.gov:80/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/cfo/stratplan.
For example, under Secretary Donovan, HUD has launched a new quarterly newsletter called Evidence Matters, which is intended to highlight the nexus between scientific research and HUD policy. See: http://www.huduser.org/portal/periodicals/em/em_secr_mess.html.
Now called the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Officially, the term “immigrant” only applies to legal permanent residents of the United States; illegal residents are generally referred to as “aliens.”
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a ∼100-page booklet entitled Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants that offers “a comprehensive guide containing practical information to help immigrants settle into everyday life in the United States, as well as basic civics information that introduces new immigrants to the U.S. system of government.” The guide is available in 14 languages.
For example, many of the world's most prestigious international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and others, are located in Washington, DC, and most noncitizens working at these institutions are in the United States on “G4” visas.
For example, about a third of Albanian immigrants entered the United States with a diversity visa (Mane and Waldorf, 2010).
In comparison, Canada has experienced higher naturalization rates than the United States. Between the 1980 and 2001, naturalization in Canada stood at 70 percent and higher (Bloemraad, 2006).
See Gross and Schmitt (2003) for a cross-national analysis of immigrant's propensity to cluster in enclaves.
In the wake of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), discussed later, California scaled back the benefits available to noncitizens and, in fact, the scaling back of benefits in California accounts for the bulk of the post-PRWORA reduction in the use of welfare by noncitizens (Borjas, 2002a).
For information on the National Bureau of Economic Research's recession dating procedure, see: http://www.nber.org/cycles/recessions.html.
For example, a household would not be granted the benefit of an extra bedroom for an ineligible member; need is calculated on the bases of eligible members only.
For example, the New York City Housing Authority works with 178,895 public housing units and 94,400 vouchers, a ratio of about 1.0:0.50. This compares to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, which works with about 6,500 public housing units and 45,432 vouchers, a ratio of about 1.0:7.0.
In principle, participants in the housing choice voucher program are free to relocate at will, though they do, of course, incur moving costs—and they must find landlords willing to accept vouchers.
See also any microeconomics textbook—for example, Nicholson and Snyder (2007), p. 96.
The residual category captures those living in units delivered via “moderate rehabilitation” program, which was discontinued in 1991.
According to the American Community Survey (ACS), in 2008, there were 21,631,026 noncitizens living in the United States, meaning that only a tiny fraction of them, 1.23 percent, made use of housing assistance. In contrast, there were 274,181,864 citizens (a total population of 295,812,890 – 21,631,026 noncitizens) meaning that 2.47 percent of citizens made use of housing assistance. Note that these percentages differ from the discussion mentioned above, which suggests that higher proportions of immigrant—not just noncitizen—households make use of housing assistance; that study (Camarota, 2011) also focused on households having children, not the overall noncitizen and citizen populations.
The analysis deals with the public housing and housing choice voucher programs, only: participants in the mod-rehab program, which was discontinued in 1991, are not included.
The percentage of individuals in the housing choice voucher program varies greatly from state-to-state and this is because of the differences in the propensity of the ∼3,300 housing authorities across the country to make use of public housing versus vouchers. This variation is a benefit to the present analysis, which uses fixed effects to control for state of residence, because it helps minimize the possibility of selection bias—for example, the possibility that individuals that chose to make use of vouchers are predisposed to pursue citizenship.
Given data limitations—on eligibility and country of origin, which are not contained in the PIH data—it is not possible to compare this annual naturalization rate to naturalization rates in the immigrant population at large. Even a juxtaposition of the PIH participants and the evidence reviewed does not help very much. As discussed, Baker (2007) estimates that, among those obtaining a green card in 1973, about 30 percent naturalized within 10 years; among immigrants obtaining their green card in 1995, more than 40 percent had become U.S. citizens 10 years later. Considering that green-card holders must wait for three to five years before they become eligible for naturalization and, thus, have a zero naturalization rate during their initial years in the country, the annual rates in the subsequent (eligible) years must be quite high—around 10 percent. Also, naturalization rates also vary by country of origin, with those for immigrants from Latin America being particularly low (Cornwell, 2006) and the descriptive statistics listed in Table 3 indicate that Hispanics represent more than 50 percent of noncitizens presently living in PIH housing.
Although the data make it possible to follow individuals over time, hazard models are not suitable because every observation is left censored. In fact, there are two types of left-censoring—due to: (i) the data being available from 2008 onward only; and (ii) missing information about the time at which an individual became eligible to apply for citizenship.
The results listed in Table 5 were obtained in Stata using the probit and dprobit commands, respectively.
Moreover, the poor are often confined to areas where public transportation is available (see Glaeser, Kahn, and Rappaport, 2008) and this can add to the duration/complexity of the commute, depending on the place in question.
In November 2008, the corresponding author met with NYCHA officials, went on an extended tour of its facilities, and met several residents—and was favorably impressed with what he saw.
- Top of page
- 1. INTRODUCTION
- 2. BACKGROUND DISCUSSION
- 3. EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
- 4. DISCUSSION
- 5. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
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