IESP Awarded MacArthur Grant to Study Housing Instability and Student Outcomes

Researchers at the Institute for Education and Social Policy are part of a multi-university research team that has been awarded an $800,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study the effects of housing instability due to foreclosure on children’s educational outcomes. Amy Ellen Schwartz, (pictured left) professor of public policy, education, and economics (NYU Wagner/Steinhardt) and Leanna Stiefel (right), professor of economics (NYU Wagner/Steinhardt) are co-primary investigators on the project.

The researcher team, which also includes the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, will examine student data from four housing markets in the U.S. that have been marked by unusual housing instability—New York City, San Diego and Fresno counties in California, and Pinellas County in Florida.

The project is one of nine research projects funded by the MacArthur Foundation that examines the role housing plays in the long-term health of children, families, and communities. The NYU research team is characterized by its multidisciplinary nature, pulling researchers from its schools of public service, law, and education. In addition, the team includes researchers from Northwestern and Indiana universities and the University of Connecticut.

Despite the enormous upheavals in the housing arrangements of many American families over the last decade, policymakers know surprising little about how such instability affects children and therefore are hampered in their ability to craft responses. The NYU project aims to fill these gaps. Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records, the research team will test the hypothesis that housing instability negatively affects students’ educational outcomes.

“This study connects two areas of children’s lives that are often considered separately by policymakers — education and housing,” said Stiefel, associate director of IESP. “We know that children don’t experience these as separate and we think that the findings and policy implications will be useful for helping children keep on track in their schooling as they experience one of America’s largest housing crises ever.”

The findings will inform federal, state and local housing, mortgage finance, and education policymakers about whether, when, and how they should intervene in housing markets or tailor educational processes in order to help reduce any negative effects that housing instability may cause. Further, the findings will help policymakers at every level of government better estimate the benefits of providing more stable housing.

Researchers from the Furman Center and IESP recently collaborated on a project sponsored by the Open Society Institute to estimate the number of public schoolchildren in New York City who live in properties affected by foreclosure. Their findings were published last year in a report, Kids and Foreclosure: New York City, which found that the number of students facing foreclosure to be sizable and growing and that black children are disproportionately affected by foreclosure in the city’s five boroughs.

The research team is rounded out by primary investigator, Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law (NYU Law), and the following co-primary investigators: Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of public policy and urban planning (NYU Wagner); David Figlio, Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy (Northwestern); Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, assistant professor (Indiana); and Stephen L. Ross, professor of economics, (Connecticut).