American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?

Report by Ingrid Gould Ellen, Michael C. Lens, and Katherine O’Regan
August 2012

Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy   (New York)

Although potential neighbors often express concern that Housing Choice Voucher holders will heighten crime, no research systematically examines the link between the presence of voucher holders in a neighborhood and crime. Our research uses longitudinal, neighborhood-level crime and voucher utilization data in 10 large U.S. cities to test whether the presence of additional voucher holders leads to elevated rates of crime, controlling for neighborhood conditions and broader trends in crime and neighborhood conditions. We also test for the reverse relationship – that is, whether the proportion of residents with vouchers increases with rising crime – which would suggest that voucher holders move into neighborhoods where crime rates are increasing.