Do Vouchers Protect Low-Income Households from Rising Rents?

  • Ingrid Gould EllenEmail author
  • Gerard Torrats-Espinosa
Urban Symposium Paper


Using restricted administrative data on the voucher program, we examine the experience of voucher holders in metropolitan areas with rising rents. While some of our models suggest that rising rents in metropolitan areas are associated with a slight increase in rent-to-income ratios among voucher holders, poor renters in general see significantly larger increases in rent-to-income ratios. We see little evidence that rising rents push voucher holders to worse neighborhoods, with voucher holders in central cities ending up in lower poverty neighborhoods as rents rise. It appears that vouchers may help low-income households remain in neighborhoods as they gentrify.


Housing vouchers Rent Rent burden Neighborhood Gentrification 

JEL Classification

R23 R28 



  1. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 2017. Housing Choice Voucher Fact Sheets.
  2. Collinson, Robert, Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Jens Ludwig. 2016. Low Income Housing. In Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, vol. II, ed. Robert Moffit. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Collinson, Robert, and Peter Ganong. 2018. How Do Changes in Housing Voucher Design Affect Rent and Neighborhood Quality? American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 10(2): 62–89.Google Scholar
  4. Dawkins, Casey and Jae Sik Jeon. 2017. Rent Burden in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Multidisciplinary Research Team Report. Washington, DC: Department of Housing and Urban Development.Google Scholar
  5. Ellen, Ingrid Gould, Keren Horn, and Katherine O’Regan. 2013. Why Do Higher Income Households Choose Low Income Neighborhoods? Pioneering or Thrift? Urban Studies 50(12): 2478–2495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ellen, Ingrid Gould, Keren Horn, and Amy Ellen Schwartz. 2016. Why Don’t Housing Choice Voucher Recipients Live Near Better Schools? Insights from Experimental and Big Data. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 35: 884–905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Finkel, Meryl, and Larry Buron. 2001. Study of Section 8 Voucher Success Rates Volume 1: Quantitative Study of Success Rates in Metropolitan Areas. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research.Google Scholar
  8. Galvez, Martha. 2011. Defining ‘Choice’ in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Dissertation Manuscript, New York University.Google Scholar
  9. Jacob, Brian A., and Jens Ludwig. 2012. The Effects of Housing Assistance on Labor Supply: Evidence from a Voucher Lottery. American Economic Review 102(1): 272–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. McClure, Kirk. 2005. Rent Burdens in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 8(2): 5–20.Google Scholar
  11. Mills, Gregory, Daniel Gubits, Larry Orr, David Long, Judie Feins, Bulbul Kaul, Michelle Wood, Amy Jones & Associates, Cloudburst Consulting, and the QED group. 2006. The Effects of Housing Vouchers on Welfare Families. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© EEA 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations