The Long-Term Effects of Neighborhood Disadvantage on Voting Behavior: The “Moving to Opportunity” Experiment
Socioeconomic disadvantage is a major correlate of low political participation. This association is among the most robust findings in political science. However, it is based largely on observational data. The causal effects of early-life disadvantage in particular are even less understood, because long-term data on the political consequences of randomized early-life anti-poverty interventions is nearly nonexistent. We leverage the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment to test the long-term effect of moving out of disadvantaged neighborhoods—and thus out of deep poverty—on turnout. MTO is one of the most ambitious anti-poverty experiments ever implemented in the United States. Although MTO ameliorated children’s poverty long term, we find that, contrary to expectations, the intervention did not increase children’s likelihood of voting later in life. Additional tests show the program did not ameliorate their poverty enough to affect turnout. These findings speak to the complex relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and low political participation.