Gender, Neighborhood Context, and Youth Development
On June 10, 2014, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) convened a panel of experts to discuss the role of gender in shaping the impact of neighborhood context on youth development. The convening was motivated by studies that found puzzling differences in the effects of the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing (MTO) demonstration program on boys and girls. In particular, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) analyzing the outcomes of MTO found that girls and boys from MTO families were affected very differently when they moved from high- to low-poverty neighborhoods. The study found reduced rates of mental health problems among girls who moved out of high-poverty neighborhoods and increased rates of depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and conduct disorder among boys who did the same. HUD convened the panel to draw on the expertise of the study’s authors and other researchers to better understand the gender differences in the MTO outcomes, how policymakers should think about the role of gender in neighborhood effects, and how HUD programs should relate to them. Experts on the panel discussed the findings of the JAMA study, the near-term policy implications, and research needed to clarify issues related to this topic.