MIP network member Eric Chyn recently spoke with HCEO about his work studying the effects that neighborhoods have on children.
Chyn's research interests are in the fields of labor and public economics. In a recent project, he looks at the relationship between neighborhoods and long-run outcomes of children. He notes that studying neighborhood effects can be difficult as there are many other factors at play. His project avoids this issue by using data from a historical incident in Chicago in the mid-1990s, when some public housing projects were demolished and families were relocated to other neighborhoods.
"This historical incident is so helpful because there were other children living in public housing that were not displaced," Chyn says. "They form an ideal comparison group."
He finds that the displaced kids, those who moved to new neighborhoods, had much better outcomes as adults. "Children benefit the most from moving to a better area when they're really young," he says. "The length of exposure to a better area really matters for how much kids benefit."
Chyn also discusses his path to economics, noting that he was drawn to the field by his interest in studying people and society. As an undergraduate, he believed that economists had the best tools to do empirical analysis. Later experience as a research assistant showed him that "economists had the best tools to generate convincing credible answers to questions about human behavior."
Chyn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Virginia and a Faculty Research Fellow at the Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab at Brown University.