How does one's childhood neighborhood shape political engagement later in life? We leverage a natural experiment that moved children out of disadvantaged neighborhoods to study effects on their voting behavior more than a decade later. Using linked administrative data, we find that children who were displaced by public housing demolitions and moved using housing vouchers are 12 percent (3.3 percentage points) more likely to vote in adulthood, relative to their nondisplaced peers. We argue that this result is unlikely to be driven by changes in incarceration or in their parents' outcomes, but rather by improvements in education and labor market outcomes, and perhaps by socialization. These results suggest that, in addition to reducing economic inequality, housing assistance programs that improve one's childhood neighborhood may be a useful tool in reducing inequality in political participation.
First version, November 2019
D72: Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
H75: State and Local Government: Health; Education; Welfare; Public Pensions
I38: Welfare and Poverty: Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
J13: Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
R23: Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics: Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population; Neighborhood Characteristics