A research team from New York University has been awarded an $800,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study the effects of housing instability due to foreclosure on children’s educational outcomes.

NYU Researchers Win MacArthur Foundation Grant to Study Housing Instability and Student Outcomes

A research team from New York University has been awarded an $800,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study the effects of housing instability due to foreclosure on children’s educational outcomes. The researchers, from NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and the Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP), will examine student data from four housing markets in the U.S. that have been marked by unusual housing instability—New York City, San Diego and Fresno counties in California, and Pinellas County in Florida.

The project is one of nine research projects funded by the MacArthur Foundation that examines the role housing plays in the long-term health of children, families, and communities.  The NYU research team is characterized by its multidisciplinary nature, pulling researchers from its schools of public service, law, and education. In addition, the team includes researchers from Northwestern and Indiana universities and the University of Connecticut.

Despite the enormous upheavals in the housing arrangements of many American families over the last decade, policymakers know surprising little about how such instability affects children and therefore are hampered in their ability to craft responses. The NYU project aims to fill these gaps. Using longitudinal data linking foreclosures and other kinds of housing upheavals to individual public school student records, the research team will test the hypothesis that housing instability negatively affects students’ educational outcomes.  

“This study connects two areas of children’s lives that are often considered separately by policymakers -- education and housing,” said Leanna Stiefel, professor of economics and associate director of IESP.  “We know that children don’t experience these as separate and we think that the findings and policy implications will be useful for helping children keep on track in their schooling as they experience one of America’s largest housing crises ever.”

The team will look at outcomes of students who have experienced housing instability and compare them to groups of students who have not experienced such instability. In addition, the researchers will employ various strategies to better understand the mechanisms by which housing instability affects children’s educational outcomes.

The findings will inform federal, state and local housing, mortgage finance, and education policymakers about whether, when, and how they should intervene in housing markets or tailor educational processes in order to help reduce any negative effects that housing instability may cause. Further, the findings will help policymakers at every level of government better estimate the benefits of providing more stable housing.

Researchers from the Furman Center and IESP recently collaborated on a project sponsored by the Open Society Institute to estimate the number of public schoolchildren in New York City who live in properties affected by foreclosure. Their findings were published last year in a report, Kids and Foreclosure: New York City, which found that the number of students facing foreclosure to be sizable and growing and that black children are disproportionately affected by foreclosure in the city’s five boroughs.

The research team consists of primary investigator, Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law (NYU Law), and the following co-primary investigators: Ingrid Gould Ellen, professor of public policy and urban planning (NYU Wagner); David Figlio, Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy (Northwestern); Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, assistant professor (Indiana); Stephen L. Ross, professor of economics, (Connecticut); Amy Ellen Schwartz, professor of public policy, education, and economics (NYU Wagner/Steinhardt); and Stiefel, professor of economics (NYU Wagner/Steinhardt).

The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy is a joint initiative of the New York University School of Law and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU. Since its founding in 1995, the Furman Center has become the leading academic research center in New York City devoted to the public policy aspects of land use, real estate, and housing development. The Furman Center is dedicated to providing objective academic and empirical research on the legal and public policy issues involving land use, real estate, housing and urban affairs in the United States, with a particular focus on New York City.

The Institute for Education and Social Policy (IESP) conducts non-partisan scientific research about U.S. education and related social policy issues to help inform educational institutions and policymakers about the effectiveness of instructional programs, the impact of school reform initiatives and the relationships between academic achievement, school finance and socio-economic and demographic factors such as poverty, ethnicity and immigration status. Its researchers are trained in econometrics, evaluation methodology, qualitative methods, and survey design. IESP, a part of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, was founded in 1995 as a partnership between Steinhardt, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

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