In the 1990’s the Federal government experimented with a program called Moving to Opportunity, that gave vouchers to poor families, allowing them to move from poor neighborhoods to mixed-income neighborhoods.
The program aimed to boost education and income, by giving mothers and their children access to better housing and schools, as well as better job opportunities and social networks. By those measures, it largely failed. Participants moved to better housing and safer neighborhoods, but they showed minimal economic or educational gains.
But the program nonetheless had a pronounced effect on families’ lives, researchers found. Participants had significantly lower rates of diabetes, extreme obesity, anxiety and stress than those who stayed behind. They were also much happier with their lives overall—something researchers said was particularly important.