202037 Community-Based Social Support in Public-Housing Projects: Interrogating the Social Costs of Demolition and Dispersal

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 8:45 AM

Danya Keene, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Arline Geronimus, ScD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Over the last 15 years, public and political dissatisfaction with federally owned public-housing projects has led to widespread demolition and a shift toward tenant-based housing assistance in the form of vouchers. Many public-housing residents and housing advocates have fought to maintain public-housing developments that serve not only as an important source of affordable housing, but also as a location of social support networks that play a critical role in mitigating the health costs of structural disadvantage. Social support networks are particularly important for low-income African American families who must contend with racism as well as material disadvantage.

This study uses the Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation to estimate the relationship between residence in a federally owned public-housing project and reported presence of community-based social support among African Americans who receive rent assistance. This study finds that in comparison to other rent-assisted households, public-housing residents are significantly more likely to report that people in their neighborhood count on each other, watch each others children and help each other out. This effect is partially mediated by the greater residential stability that is observed among public-housing residents. This study also finds that measures of community support are associated with improved self-rated health among adults, and reduced odds of school expulsion and grade repetition among children. These findings counter conventional assumptions about the social pathology of public-housing and lend support for strategies of public-housing revitalization that minimize displacement and protect existing social structures within these developments.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify health protective social resources that exist within federally owned public-housing projects. 2. Assess the health costs of policy initiatives that fail to recognize the importance of social resources within public-housing projects.

Keywords: Housing, Public Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have achieved candidacy as a doctoral student in my department and successfully defended my dissertation proposal. I am in the final stages of completing my dissertation on the subject matter presented in this abstract and have presented these findings at student seminars at the University of Michigan.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.