Public Housing, Health, and Health Behaviors: Is There a Connection?
This paper explores the relationship between public housing, health outcomes, and health behaviors among low-income housing residents. While public housing can be a dangerous and unhealthy environment in which to live, the subsidized rent may free up resources for nutritious food and health care. In addition, public housing may be of higher quality than the available alternatives, it may provide easier access to health clinics willing to serve the poor, and it may link residents to social support networks, which can improve mental health and the ability to access higher-quality grocery stores. To test whether there is a “back-door” health benefit to the public housing program, we analyze data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. We minimize the effects of selection into public housing with controls and instrumental variables estimation and find that the results are somewhat sensitive to the instrumental variable used, and thus, we conclude that we are unable to detect a robust health benefit from public housing for our measures of health. However, we do find some evidence that public housing residency has mixed effects on domestic violence, increases obesity, and worsens mothers' overall health status.