RSF-Funded Research on Housing

Since 2014, RSF has made 27 housing-related grants totaling about $2 million in funding. Nine of the 27 grants were Pipeline Grants, funded in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Interest in the topic has increased in recent years; 15 of the 27 awards were funded in the last two years. This reflects, in part, interest in the federal eviction moratoria and concerns about housing insecurity in the wake of the pandemic. Nine grants totaling an additional $800,000 were made for projects where housing was not the central focus but which include a substantive housing-related focus. Grantees include economists, political scientists, psychologists, public and social policy scholars, public health scholars, social work scholars, sociologists, and urban planning scholars.

Grantees have examined topics such as disparities in evictions due to the pandemic; the impact of the COVID eviction moratoria and emergency rental assistance on housing stability; the extent to which state policies, including moratoria on foreclosures and evictions, offset some of the pandemic’s negative effects on the financial wellbeing of disadvantaged communities; how mobility patterns vary across cities post-pandemic; how housing costs affect laid off workers’ willingness to relocate; and the extent to which family receipt of housing subsidies reduces the negative effects of poverty on children’s brain development.

Many of the grants listed below have yet to yield publications because they are still ongoing or only recently closed.

The grants are presented in reverse chronological order. Following the grant summaries is information about seven RSF books and eight articles from RSF: The Russell Sage Journal of the Social Sciences that have a housing-related focus.

Breno Braga and Signe-Mary McKernan (Urban Institute). Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Financial Wellbeing Disparities and the Effectiveness of State Initiatives to Protect Vulnerable Communities. (Social, Political, and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 9/1/2021 – 8/31/2023; $149,601).
Abstract: The number of people unable to fulfill their financial obligations is expected to increase due to the pandemic, with vulnerable populations suffering the most. In response, many states have implemented emergency measures, such as suspensions on foreclosures and limitations on collection activities. Using unique credit record data, we aim to answer these questions: 1) How have disparities in financial wellbeing changed in the wake of the pandemic? 2) To what extent have state policies protected vulnerable communities during the pandemic or exacerbated pre-COVID inequities? We will analyze nine waves of credit bureau data on about 5.5 million adults and how disparities in financial wellbeing changed post-COVID and across states that did or did not implement protective measures.

Matthew Desmond (Princeton University) and Peter Hepburn (Rutgers University). Eviction in the Aftermath of COVID-19. (Social, Political, and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 4/1/2021 – 3/31/2023; $124,812).
Abstract: COVID-19 has the potential to exacerbate an ongoing housing crisis, with a possible increase in eviction, displacement, and homelessness. This, in turn, could deepen the public health crisis as inadequate and unstable housing is a leading social determinant of poor health. In this project we pursue two goals: (1) expand and maintain the Eviction Tracking System that we developed for monitoring eviction filings across the country, and (2) carry out research that analyzes the extent of housing insecurity and the efficacy of policy responses aimed at protecting renters.

Elora Raymond (Georgia Institute of Technology), Lauren Sudeall (Georgia State University) and Phil Garboden (University of Hawaii). Preserving Rental Housing Stability during Disasters: An Examination of Eviction Moratoria during the COVID19 Pandemic. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 6/1/2021 – 5/31/2023; $167,194)
Abstract: Disasters can disrupt housing systems and exacerbate existing racial and spatial inequalities. We will examine the impact of COVID19 emergency eviction moratoria and emergency rental assistance on housing stability, and on the disparate burden of housing instability by race and ethnicity. We will examine how differences in policy design affect the formal evictions and racial and ethnic disparities in eviction and housing stability. We create two novel datasets, including a survey of county court processing of eviction cases, and case-level eviction data joined with parcel-level data on land ownership, land use, and mortgage/foreclosure characteristics. In addition, we will examine potential mechanisms through semi-structured interviews with rental property managers.

Ingrid Ellen (New York University). Urban Flight and Avoidance in the 21st Century: Exploring Post-COVID Residential Mobility Patterns in the U.S. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 1/1/2021 – 12/31/2022; $145,647).
Abstract: The prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic in urban areas may change people’s perception of health risks of living in cities. It could also erode the benefits of urban living as more companies invite remote work and urban consumption amenities, reducing the residential demand for cites. In this study, we will use a unique consumer reference dataset to examine the degree to which people move away from (or fail to move into) cities during the first two years post COVID, and how mobility patterns vary across cities depending on size, density, prevalence of illness, and policy responses. We will also examine whether there are racial and age differences in mobility responses and consider their implications for the demographic composition and segregation of urban areas. Finally, we will look in-depth at variation in shifts of mobility rates in different types of housing and neighborhoods within the New York City metropolitan area.

Michael Hankinson (City University of New York) and Asya Magazinnik (Princeton University). Aggregating Voters and the Electoral Connection: The Effect of Neighborhood Representation on the Welfare and Equity of the Housing Supply. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 12/1/2020 – 5/31/2022; $31,468).
Abstract: Recent legislation in California triggered a wave of city council conversions from 'at- large' to 'district-based' elections. We measure the effect of district-based city councils on the number of new housing permits issued annually, their structural composition, and their spatial distribution within each city. By measuring the relationship between permits and their host neighborhood's socio-economic traits, we capture the degree to which district representation enhances the political influence of underrepresented minority groups.

Sherry Glied and Ingrid Ellen (New York University). The Emergence of Disparities in Infectious Disease: Comparing the Role of Housing and Social Policy in COVID-19 and Influenza Morbidity and Mortality. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 11/1/2020 – 10/31/2021; $35,000)
Abstract: The rapid emergence of sharp disparities in COVID-19 raises questions about how social, economic, and policy factors affect the diffusion of disease and outcomes for those infected. We propose to examine the relationship of living circumstances to patterns of disparities associated with COVID-19 and with seasonal influenza outbreaks in the Medicaid- insured population of New York State. This analysis across diseases will allow us to draw inferences both about the role of housing and social policy in generating the preconditions for disparate health outcomes in the early phases of an epidemic and about how private and public COVID mitigation actions interact with these conditions to generate disparities in the later phases of an epidemic.


  • Howland, Renata E., Wang, Scarlett & Ingrid Gould Ellen. 2022. “Not a New Story: Place- and Race-Based Disparities in COVID-19 and Influenza Hospitalizations among Medicaid-Insured Adults in New York City.” Journal of Urban Health, 1-13.

Danya Keene (Yale University) and Kim Blankenship (American University). Informal Housing Provision, Health, and Inequality. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 10/1/2020 – 9/31/2021; $26,000).
Abstract: Research has focused on how an individual’s housing affects their own health. But limited housing availability may also affect health and wellbeing through the strain that it places on those who informally house friends/family locked out of housing opportunities. To address this gap, we will draw on an existing cohort study of low-income adults and interview informal housing providers. We aim to: 1) characterize their experiences, 2) identify mechanisms that connect the provision of informal housing to health and wellbeing 3) explore relationships between informal housing provision and race and gender-based inequalities in housing and health.

Johanna Lacoe (University of California, Berkeley) and Michael Lens (University of California, Los Angeles). The Impact of Housing Vouchers on Social Service Usage, Health, and Wellbeing. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 9/1/2020 – 8/31/2022; $173,690)
Abstract: This study will examine the impact of the Housing Choice Voucher program on individual outcomes in suburban and rural settings. To estimate the impact of the vouchers, we leverage the random selection of HCV recipients through a lottery and linked administrative data from eight agencies serving low-income residents of Sonoma County. The study will consider whether securing housing increases or decreases reliance on other social support services, including behavioral health, emergency health services, and criminal justice contacts.

Elizabeth Korver-Glenn (University of New Mexico). How Rental Property Management Shapes Social and Economic Inequality. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 7/1/2020 – 6/30/2022; $49,345).
Abstract: Many renters spending a large proportion of their incomes on rent, exposing them to exploitative landlords and substandard housing. Yet, because most research is focused on high- poverty neighborhoods within Midwestern or Northeastern cities, little is known about how renters’ experiences vary across forms of property management, neighborhoods, and cities. Moreover, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic renters remain understudied. Our mixed-methods project uses interviews, ethnography, and restricted Census data to examine whether and how rental property management practices differ across residents, neighborhoods, and cities.

Jeffrey Zabel (Tufts University), Henry Pollakowski (Harvard University), and Keren Horn (University of Massachusetts, Boston). The Geography of Worker Adaptation: Industry, Skills, Retraining, Mobility, and Housing Costs. (Future of Work; Grant Period: 7/1/2019 – 6/30/2022; $149,997).
Abstract: We propose a study of worker adaptation to changing labor market conditions, following over three million workers who lost jobs due to involuntary layoffs. We will utilize rich confidential Census Bureau data from multiple sources – administrative records, censuses, and surveys – that allow us to follow the economic and geographic mobility of these workers over extended time periods. Using these data, we will provide a portrait of worker adaptation to the ongoing sharp changes in demand for labor across numerous dimensions, such as geography; local labor market conditions; worker history including industry and earnings; and worker and household characteristics including age, education, homeownership, and race. Estimation of causal models of the multidimensional patterns of worker adjustment, including mobility outcomes, earnings, and transition to joblessness, will be highly relevant for future policy interventions.

Ingrid Ellen and Katherine O’Regan (New York University). Where are the Landlords? Enhancing Choice in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 4/1/2019 – 9/30/2021; $63,245).
Abstract: The Housing Choice Voucher program provides low-income families with access to stable, affordable housing and resource-rich neighborhoods, which research shows are critical in helping children move up the economic ladder. Yet the vouchers often fail to provide recipients with meaningful choice in housing and neighborhoods, and many recipients are not able to use their vouchers at all. Landlord participation is a key hurdle to improving voucher success rates and neighborhood access, yet little is known about its drivers and patterns. We plan to use a largely unexploited national dataset from HUD to learn more about the landlords that participate in the program. We will also study whether policy reforms, such as Small Area Fair Market Rents, change the number and composition of participating landlords.


  • Gould Ellen, Ingrid & O’Regan, Katherine. Submission Pending. “Advancing Choice in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: Source of Income Protections and Locational Outcomes.” Housing Policy Debate.

Peter Christensen (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) and Christopher Timmins (Duke University). Estimating The Impact of Racial Discrimination on Locational Choice. (Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; Grant Period: 1/1/2019 – 12/31/2022; $148,088).
Abstract: The impact of one’s neighborhood on many outcomes can accumulate across generations, elevating concern about whether minority groups may be disadvantaged by discriminatory steering and exclusion. However, it is difficult to disentangle the effect of discrimination (steering) from preference-based sorting in evaluating persistent disparities. The project utilizes a novel computational infrastructure to: (1) conduct experiments to identify the effect of discrimination on locational choice using online housing platforms and (2) implement a new approach for estimating the effects of discrimination on social welfare.


  • Christensen, Peter, Timmins, Christopher & Ignacio Sarmiento-Barbieri. 2020. “Housing Discrimination and the Pollution Exposure Gap in the United States.” NBER WP 26805.
  • Christensen, Peter, Sarmiento-Barbieri, Ignacio & Christopher Timmins. 2020. “Racial Discrimination and Housing Outcomes in the United States Rental Market.” NBER WP 29516.
  • Christensen, Peter, & Christopher Timmins. 2020. “The Damages and Distortions from Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market.” NBER WP 29049.

Barbara Wolfe and Seth Pollak (University of Wisconsin, Madison). Supporting Families and Academic Success. (Integrating Biology and Social Science Knowledge; Grant Period: 12/1/2018 – 11/30/2022; $175,000).
Abstract: The goal of this study is to better understand how poverty influences children’s brain development and to determine if housing subsidies, can reduce some of these negative effects. We will target the neural systems underlying decision-making, which may account for the maladaptive decisions and choices related to educational and occupational behaviors that children from poor families tend to make. MRIs might serve as a new type of evidence that allow compelling tests of the influence of anti-poverty programs.


  • Pollak, SD & Wolfe, Barbara. 2020. “Maximizing research on the adverse effects of child poverty through consensus measures.” Developmental Science, 23: 1-11.
  • Pollak, SD & Wolfe, Barbara. 2021. “How developmental neuroscience can help address the problem of child poverty.” Development and Psychopathology, 32: 1640-55.

Anita Zuberi (Duquesne University). The Other Side of the Story: Exploring the Experiences of Landlords in order to Improve Housing Opportunity for Low-Income Households. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 7/1/2018 – 6/30/2022; $17,088).
Abstract: This project analyzes 29 qualitative interviews with Pittsburgh landlords to 1) gain a deeper understanding of how landlords make meaning of their role; 2) detail the tools landlords use with tenants (i.e., screening, eviction); and 3) evaluate the experience of landlords working with the Housing Choice Voucher program. The literature on housing policy for low-income households has been largely drawn from the tenant’s perspective, despite our increased reliance on landlords. By understanding issues landlords face, especially those tied to poverty, we can improve the experiences of HCV landlords and expand housing opportunities for low-income households.


  • Zuberi, Anita. 2019. “The Other Side of the Story: Exploring the Experiences of Landlords in order to Improve Housing Opportunity for Low-Income Households.” NYU Furman Center Colloquium Paper, 1-22.

Jacob Faber (New York University). Multidimensional Discrimination in Rental Housing: Implications for Families with Young Children. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 9/1/2017 – 8/31/2019; $93,475).
Abstract: We propose a field experiment to analyze whether discrimination on the basis of race, family structure, and/or housing voucher (Section 8) receipt shapes disparate outcomes among families in the online rental housing market in 30 large cities. This is the first study to evaluate whether discrimination against voucher holders exists in multiple cities while also investigating intersectional bias against Black and Latina single mothers.


  • Faber, Jacob W and Marie Mercier. 2022. “Multidimensional Discrimination in the Online Rental Housing Market: Implications for Families with Young Children.” Housing Policy Debate. (

Cindy Soo (University of Michigan). The Effect of Better Neighborhoods on Household Financial Wellbeing and Access to Credit: Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 12/1/2016 – 11/30/2018; $149,990).
Abstract: Improved neighborhood quality may provide poor households with access to better information about credit markets or opportunities to develop financial norms and behaviors surrounding bill paying, borrowing, and bankruptcy. This project evaluates these effects by linking credit outcomes of participants in the “Moving to Opportunity Experiment (MTO)” housing voucher experiment. MTO provides a unique opportunity to understand how neighborhood environments contribute to financial norms and wellbeing, or whether behavioral biases remain unaffected regardless of neighborhood environment.


  • Cindy K Soo and Sarah Miller. 2021. Do Neighborhoods Affect the Credit Market Decisions of Low-Income Borrowers? Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment. The Review of Financial Studies, Volume 34, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 827–863, .

Megan Reid (University of Wisconsin, Madison). Economic Wellbeing, Housing Insecurity, and New Family Formation in the Reentry Population: An Exploratory Study. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 12/1/2016 – 4/30/2019; $33,916).
Abstract: This project seeks to understand the contexts and processes of new relationship formation in the reentry population. It is important to understand how and why such relationships are formed because relationship characteristics impact both adult and child economic and overall wellbeing. This project collects and analyzes in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations with reentering low-income Black men and their new or potential partners in New York City.

Danya Keene (Yale University). Reverse Mortgages and Racial Inequalities in Wealth and Health. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 11/1/2014 – 4/30/2016; $34,087).
Abstract: This project will examine how African American homeowners understand and experience reverse mortgage loans. Racially stratified wealth and health vulnerabilities may shape their borrowing decisions and the risks and benefits of this loan option. We know little about the experiences of applying for or receiving a reverse mortgage, and what we know is limited to the experiences of white borrowers. The project will conduct qualitative semi- structured interviews with homeowners who are considering or have received a reverse mortgage loan.


  • Danya E Keene, Ann Sarnak, and Caitlin Coyle. 2019. Maximizing Home Equity or Preventing Home Loss: Reverse Mortgage Decision Making and Racial Inequality. The Gerontologist, Volume 59, Issue 2, Pages 242–250.


Pipeline and Targeted Competitions

Aradhya Sood (University of Toronto), Milena Almagro (University of Chicago), and Kevin Ehrman-Solberg (University of Minnesota). The Effects of Discrimination in Housing Markets: Evidence from Historical Racial Covenants in Minneapolis. (Pipeline; Grant Period: 6/1/2021 – 5/31/2022; $26,000).
Abstract: Racially restrictive covenants, which prevented sale and rental of housing to racial and ethnic minorities, were a common phenomenon in the first half of the 20th century In Minneapolis and suburbs they were first used in 1911 and gained popularity until 1948, when the Supreme Court made them unenforceable. We study what Minneapolis and suburbs would have looked like in 1940 if racial and ethnic covenants were not put into place to understand how much they contributed to sorting, segregation, and inequality between Whites and Blacks and to what extent racial covenants originally contributed to the temporal persistence in the geography of economic outcomes across groups.

Diane Wong (Rutgers University, Newark). You Can't Evict a Movement: Intergenerational Activism and Housing Justice in New York City. (Pipeline; Grant Period: 7/1/2021 – 6/30/2023; $26,087).
Abstract: In New York City, where one out of ten tenants are taken to housing court each year by their landlords, displacement shapes the political lives of Asian immigrant communities. My project examines the democratic implications of displacement by focusing on how residents in Manhattan Chinatown are politically responding to evictions, landlord harassment, cultural erasure, and other forms of dispossession. My work provides a nuanced understanding of the conditions under which Asian immigrant communities are active in the making of urban space and urban politics, shifting away from a narrative that portrays them as disengaged from democratic processes. I use a combination of methods including ethnography, participatory mapping, archival research, and oral history interviews.

Brielle Bryan (Rice University). Locked out of Place: How Felony Conviction History Shapes Residential Opportunity and Racial Segregation. (Pipeline; Grant Period: 6/1/2021 – 5/31/2022; $28,869).
Abstract: Due to felony conviction, individuals can be denied housing, employment, and the right to vote for years after they complete their sentences. Researchers have examined the consequences of incarceration for subsequent life chances, but 2/3 of felons have never been imprisoned. Their fate has been largely overlooked. Given that criminal background checks have become a routine part of rental applicant screening and the importance of where one lives for quality of life and access to opportunity, I propose to uncover how felony conviction history shapes renters’ choices in the housing market. This is the first attempt to conduct a nationwide analysis of how much discrimination those with felony records face and, what types of neighborhoods they are channeled into as a result.

Agustina Laurito (University of Illinois, Chicago) and Sarah Cordes (Temple University). Racial/Ethnic Differences in Homeownership and Gaps in Student Achievement. (Targeted Competitions, Educational Opportunity Monitoring; Grant Period: 7/1/2020 – 6/30/2021; $19,980).
Abstract: Gaps in homeownership between white and non-white households are growing. Given the links between homeownership and many positive social and economic outcomes, these racial/ethnic gaps may translate into disparities in educational achievement. In this project, we will estimate the effect of racial/ethnic gaps in homeownership on the achievement gap between white and black students and white and Hispanic students. The empirical strategy will exploit the richness of SEDA data in models with a large complement of school district controls, year, and district fixed effects, as well as instrumental variables approach to isolate causal effects.

Samantha Teixeira and Rebekah Levine Coley (Boston College). Moving communities to opportunity: Exploring public housing redevelopment as a strategy for addressing structural barriers to economic mobility. (Pipeline; Grant Period: 6/1/2020 – 5/31/2021; $25,916).
Public housing initiatives have turned to public-private investment models to deconcentrate poverty and create mixed-income communities, but we know little about how these efforts affect barriers to economic mobility. This project will assess the community contexts of public housing developments, using quasi-experimental methods to answer (1) How does redevelopment of public housing into mixed-income housing affect concentrated disadvantage, presence of resources, and presence of stressors in the community? (2) Do shifts in concentrated disadvantage, resources and stressors vary based upon geographic characteristics of the public housing sites, such as racial make-up and local economic conditions? 3) What characteristics shift most quickly, driving later neighborhood improvements in factors related to economic mobility?

Michael Lens (University of California, Los Angeles). The Evolution of Black Neighborhoods: Fifty Years of Spatial and Economic Mobility. (Pipeline; Grant Period: 4/1/2020 – 10/31/2022; $35,528).
Abstract: This project will summarize the spatial and demographic context and evolution of predominantly Black neighborhoods, starting in 1970. I define the universe of Black neighborhoods at that point in time, use spatial and demographic methods to categorize their characteristics, and summarize their trajectories over time. This research will provide a foundation for the second stage that seeks to better understand the conditions under which Black neighborhoods flourish and fail, the residential mobility pathways in and out of them, and the consequences of policy choices on the Black neighborhood.

Jacob Faber and Chantal Hailey (New York University). When Crisis Hits Home: A National Study of the Distal Effects of Foreclosures on Student Achievement. (Targeted Competitions: Education Opportunity Monitoring; Grant Period: 7/1/2018 – 6/30/2019; $19,131).
Abstract: We will assess how the foreclosure crisis of the early twenty-first century affected student academic performance, the racial achievement gap, and school racial segregation (both within and across school districts) and estimate changes over time in district-level student achievement and segregation using SEDA data and data on foreclosures between 2006 and 2016.

Shomon Shamsuddin (Tufts University). Estimating the Causal Impact of Affordable Housing on Intergenerational Mobility. (Targeted Competitions, Intergenerational Mobility; Grant Period: 6/1/2017 – 8/31/2018; $19,357).
Abstract: This project uses quasi-experimental strategies to construct and describe changes in the availability of affordable housing across geographic areas during the past 25 years. It will estimate the effect of exposure to affordable housing opportunities on intergenerational economic mobility for lower income households drawing on datasets from the Census, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Equality of Opportunity Project. The goal is to identify the causal effect of access to affordable housing.

Jacob Faber and Peter Rich (New York University). Shocks in the Geography of Opportunity: The Foreclosure Crisis and College Enrollment. (Targeted Competitions, Intergenerational Mobility; Grant Period: 6/1/2014 – 5/31/2015; $13,878).
Abstract: This project will assess the hypothesis that wealth losses experienced during the foreclosure crisis may have muted or stunted the counter-cyclical college entry response related to diminishing job opportunities and varied for families at different points in the income distribution. Research questions include: What is the relationship between the timing of the foreclosure crisis and family college enrollment decisions? How did the relationship vary across the income distribution? Data will come from RealtyTrac, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.


  • Faber, Jacob W. and Peter Rich. 2018. “Financially over-extended: College attendance as a contributor to foreclosures during the Great Recession.” Demography, 55(5): 1727- 1748.


Projects with a Substantive Housing-Related Focus

Yana Kucheva (CUNY) and Norma Fuentes-Mayorga (City College of New York). Stitching the U.S. Safety Net: Inequality and Social Mobility in Mixed Status Latino Immigrant Families. (Pipeline; Grant Period: 6/1/2021 – 5/31/2022; $29,544).
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the fragility of Latino families, many of whom are not eligible for assistance from federal- and state-level social safety net programs due to their documentation status. This mixed-methods study follows a sample of Latinos in the New York City metropolitan area, living in mixed-status households, from the early days of the pandemic through Fall 2021 to address these questions: 1) How has the social safety net contributed to schooling, employment, and housing insecurity among Latinos during the pandemic?; 2) What coping strategies have helped them secure housing and employment during the pandemic and how do these differ by immigration status?; 3) What are the implications of the pandemic for the educational attainment and future mobility of second-generation Latino youth?

Karin Martin (University of Washington, Seattle). Amnesty for Court-Ordered Debt in the U.S. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 11/1/2020 – 10/31/2021; $29,998).
Abstract: What happens when state sanctioned punishment is reversed? Who benefits and how? The project will examine the consequences of an amnesty program that reduced or waived the unpaid criminal justice debt of over 800 people in Pierce County, Washington. Criminal justice debt arises from an inability to pay the fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution incurred from contact with the criminal justice system. Some jurisdictions around the country are enacting various amnesty programs. The project is designed to answer the following question: can amnesty for court-ordered debt guard against criminal justice system involvement and housing insecurity, and, if so, for whom? I will use a quasi-experimental research design and linked administrative data to address this question.


  • Martin, K. and Fowle, M. (August 2021). “An Analysis of Pierce County’s Legal Financial Obligations Reconsideration Day: An Internal Report.” Seattle, WA.

Devyn Benson (Davidson College) and Danielle Clealand (Florida International University). Black Migration in a White City: Power, Privilege, and Exclusion in Cuban America. (Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; Grant Period: 10/1/2020 – 9/30/2022; $50,000).
Abstract: Our project analyzes oral histories, census, and archival data from Afro-Cubans to examine the different socioeconomic status, educational trajectories, political attitudes, and voting behaviors of black Cubans who have been excluded from the white Cuban enclave in South Florida. Preliminary findings show that there are racial differences in measures of wealth where black Cubans are less likely to own homes, build savings in bank accounts and have a lower net worth when compared to whites. We map the racial exclusion of black Cubans, while highlighting how they resist, cope with, experience and sometimes fail to overcome these challenges.


  • Benson, Devyn and Danielle Clealand. 2021. “Re-Narrating Mariel: Black Cubans, Racial Exclusion and Building Community in Miami.” Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, 17.

Yamil Velez (Columbia University). Gentrification and Political Displacement. (Pipeline; Grant Period: 7/1/2020 – 12/31/2022; $30,000).
Abstract: This proposal aims to construct a multi-year panel data set for the purpose of analyzing the long-term effects of gentrification on urban politics. Though there is evidence that gentrification is associated with declines in descriptive representation at the local level, existing studies are unable to rule out whether the former is a cause or consequence of this process. Moreover, current research has yet to consider the effects of gentrification on non-racial legislator identities (gender, education), policymaking, and local civic engagement. The findings will have significant implications on how we think about political representation, minority politics, and the future of urban governance.

Daniel Notterman and Louis Donnelly (Princeton University), Kalsea Koss (University of Georgia), and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (Columbia University). Financial Distress, DNA Methylation, and Children's Behavioral Problems. (Integrating Biology and Social Science; Grant Period: 12/1/2018 – 11/30/2021; $174,855).
Abstract: We will investigate a biological mechanism whereby childhood disadvantage translates into lifetime inequalities; we will examine associations between children’s DNA methylation and both financial distress and children's behavioral outcomes. Financial distress represents a significant, prevalent stressor in the lives of many families, yet its impact on children's epigenome remains understudied. We examine five forms of financial distress--income loss, housing hardship, food hardship, utility bill hardship, and health hardship. We will uniquely examine both changes in DNA methylation and the role of timing of financial distress across multiple points during childhood. We will utilize data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

Bruce Western (Columbia University). Studying the Rikers Island Jail Population. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 1/1/2019 – 12/31/2020; $172,390).
Abstract: Jail incarceration lies on the leading edge of how the state interacts with poor young people of color, often with negative effects on social and economic wellbeing. The Rikers Island Longitudinal Study (RILS) asks how do race, poverty, and related vulnerabilities raise the risk of jail incarceration? Working with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the RILS will guide policy reform on reducing the jail population, particularly in the areas of racial disparity, repeated incarceration, and incarceration for those suffering from mental illness, addiction, and housing insecurity.

Richard Alba (CUNY). Pathways to Success: The Successful Second Generation in New York City, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Stockholm. (Immigration; Grant Period: 3/1/2015 – 6/30/2016; $20,820).
Abstract: Scholars have not much studied successful children of immigrants at top levels in the labor market. Their pathways, however, can potentially yield important lessons about how disadvantaged groups (both from an immigrant and low status background) can overcome social inequalities. Our retrospective approach will look at how the successful overcome educational and housing inequalities and later overcome labor market and income inequalities. Our research design includes analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data.

John Haltiwanger (University of Maryland, College Park). Economic Mobility: The Impact of Individual, Parent and Spatial Factors Using National Survey and Administrative Data. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 7/1/2015 – 6/30/2018; $150,000).
Abstract: We will analyze new nationally based administrative and survey data to explore the interaction of spatial and individual factors with intergenerational economic mobility (IEM). First, we will construct measures of IEM across the income distribution and show how they vary by characteristics such as race and parents’ education and on spatial factors such as neighborhood characteristics and subsidized housing. Second, we explore mechanisms using quasi-experimental approaches.

Fabian Pfeffer (University of Michigan). How Rigid is the Wealth Structure and Why? Intergenerational Correlations and Determinants of Family Wealth. (Social, Political and Economic Inequality; Grant Period: 5/1/2015 – 8/31/2017; $72,285).
Abstract: This project investigates the persistence of family wealth across generations. First, we describe intergenerational (children-parent) and multigenerational (children-grandparent) correlations in wealth. Second, we compare the wealth attainment of siblings and cousins and assess the role of monetary transfers in maintaining wealth across family lineages. Third, we study wealth accumulation as it relates to two hypothesized causal pathways of wealth attainment: home ownership and marriage.

RSF Housing-Related Publications, 2014-21

1. Choosing Homes, Choosing Schools, Annette Lareau and Kimberly Goyette, eds., 2014.
The use of standardized test scores and the boom in charter schools allows parents to evaluate their assigned neighborhood school or move in search of a better option. What kind of data do parents actually use while choosing schools? How do their choices influence school and residential segregation? Choosing Homes, Choosing Schools analyzes the new era of school choice, and what it portends for neighborhoods.

2. Diversity and Disparities: America Enters a New Century, John Logan, editor, 2014
This volume includes studies that interpret the social and economic changes in the U.S. over the last decade. The authors find that while America has grown more diverse, the opportunities available to disadvantaged groups have become more unequal.

3. Abandoned Families: Social Isolation in the Twenty-First Century, Kristin S. Seefeldt, 2016
Education, employment, and home ownership are considered steppingstones to the middle class. But Seefeldt shows how many working families have access only to a separate but unequal set of poor-quality jobs, low-performing schools, and declining housing markets which offer few chances for upward mobility.

  • Honorable Mention 2018 Society for Social Work and Research Outstanding Social Work Book Award

4. Weathering Katrina: Culture and Recovery among Vietnamese Americans, Mark J. Van Landingham, 2017
Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and its Vietnamese American enclave, a remote, low- income area flooded badly. Van Landingham analyzes their path to recovery, and the extent to which culture helped them cope in response to this crisis.

5. Cycle of Segregation: Social Processes and Residential Stratification, Maria Krysan and Kyle Crowder, 2017
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlawed housing discrimination by race and provided tools for dismantling legal segregation. So why does residential segregation persist at such high rates and what makes it so difficult to combat? Krysan and Crowder examine how everyday social processes such as neighborhood experiences, social networks, and daily activities shape residential stratification.

  • Winner of the 2019 Otis Dudley Duncan Book Award from the Sociology of Population Section of the American Sociological Association
  • Winner of the 2018 Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award from the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities of the American Sociological Association
  • Winner of the 2018 Robert E. Park Award for Best Book from the Community and Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association
  • Honorable Mention for the 2018 Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship Book Award from the Race, Gender, and Class Section of the American Sociological Association

6. Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison, Bruce Western, 2018
Western examines the first year after release from prison. Drawing from in-depth interviews with over one hundred formerly incarcerated individuals, he describes their lives and how poverty, racial inequality, and failures of social support trap many in a cycle of vulnerability despite their efforts to rejoin society.

  • Winner of the 2019 Outstanding Book Award from the Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility Section of the American Sociological Association
  • 2018 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

7. Sites Unseen: Uncovering Hidden Hazards in American Cities, Scott Frickel and James R. Elliot, 2018
Frickel and Elliott uncover the hidden histories of former hazardous waste sites to show how they are often reincorporated into urban landscapes with limited or no regulatory oversight. They spotlight how city-making has become a process of social and environmental transformation and risk containment.

  • Winner of the 2020 Robert E. Park Award for Best Book from the Community and Urban Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association

Articles in Issues of RSF Journals

1. “When There Is No Welfare: The Income Packaging Strategies of Mothers Without Earnings or Cash Assistance Following an Economic Downturn,” Kristin S. Seefeldt and Heather Sandstrom, November 2015, 1 (1),
The 1996 welfare reform law sought to reformulate single mothers’ income package, replacing cash welfare checks with paychecks. Among a sample of single mothers in Los Angeles and southeast Michigan, we find that when they lose jobs and do not receive cash assistance, they package income from multiple sources (such as other public assistance programs and informal child support), find others in their social networks to pay their bills, or move in and share housing with others.

2. “Homelessness and Housing Insecurity Among Former Prisoners,” Claire W. Herbert, Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and David J. Harding, November 2015, 1 (2),
That a relationship between homelessness, housing insecurity, and incarceration exists is clear, but the extent and nature of this relationship is not adequately understood. We find relatively low rates of homelessness among former prisoners, but very high rates of housing insecurity, much of which is linked to community supervision, such as intermediate sanctions, returns to prison, and absconding.

3. “Does Your Home Make You Wealthy?” Alexandra Killewald and Brielle Bryan, October 2016, 2 (6),
Estimating the lifetime wealth consequences of homeownership is complicated by events, such as divorce or inheritance, that shape both homeownership decisions and later-life wealth. Homeownership remains wealth-enhancing in 2012 but shows smaller returns. Our results confirm homeownership’s role in wealth accumulation and that variation in both homeownership rates and its wealth benefits contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in midlife wealth holdings.

4. “Home Truths: Promises and Challenges in Linking Mortgages and Political Influence,” Deniz Igan, November 2016, 2 (7),
What can “big data” tell us about the dynamics shaping the regulation of and activities in housing and mortgage markets? This paper describes the lobbying activities, campaign contributions, political connections, and mortgage lending activities of the financial industry. A review based on these data suggests that the political influence of the industry may influence the regulation of mortgage markets and, in turn, risk-taking by lenders.

5. “A Public Choice Approach to the Unequal Treatment of Securities Market Participants and Home Borrowers,” Jonathan Macey, January 2017, 3 (1),
This article contrasts the protections provided to participants in securities markets with those provided in mortgage markets. Participants in securities markets purchase and sell equity and debt securities. Participants in the mortgage markets borrow money to buy homes, using those homes as collateral for their mortgage loans. Even after Dodd-Frank, participants in securities markets have greater protection than those in mortgage markets.

6. “A Renter’s Tax Credit to Curtail the Affordable Housing Crisis,” Sara Kimberlin, Laura Tach and Christopher Wimer, February 2018, 4 (2),
To address the housing affordability crisis, we propose a refundable renter’s tax credit that would be delivered through the tax code, reach a broad segment of renters, and target those with high housing cost burdens. The credit would reach nearly 60 percent of poor renters and reduce the poverty rate by 12.4 percentage points and the deep poverty rate by 8.8 percentage points.

7. “Fifty Years After the Kerner Commission Report: Place, Housing, and Racial Wealth Inequality in Los Angeles,” Melany De La Cruz-Viesca, Paul M. Ong, Andre Comandon, William A. Darity, Jr., Darrick Hamilton, September 2018, 4 (6),
This article examines racial wealth inequality through the lens of home ownership, particularly in South Los Angeles. It also analyzes the state’s role in housing development in codifying and expanding practices of racial and class segregation that contribute to the production and reproduction of racial inequality in South Los Angeles compared with Los Angeles County.

8. “Fair Housing: Asian and Latino/a Experiences, Perceptions, and Strategies,” Vincent Reina, Claudia Aiken, April 2021, 7 (2),
This article uses the National Asian American Survey to explore issues of housing access and discrimination among Asians and Latino/as, and how identity and heterogeneity within groups can lead to their underrepresentation in housing programs. The findings highlight the complexity of furthering fair housing for an increasingly diverse population.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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