Health outcomes for children and adults vary dramatically across neighborhoods, even after statistically controlling for various individual- or family-level risk and protective factors. These patterns have generated concern among both policymakers and scientists that health outcomes may be causally affected by neighborhood attributes. In this paper, researchers estimate the causal effects on child mortality from moving into less distressed neighborhood environments.
Researchers match mortality data to information on every child in public housing that applied for a housing voucher in Chicago in 1997 (N=11,848). Families were randomly assigned to the voucher wait list, and only some families were offered vouchers. The odds ratio for the effects of being offered a housing voucher on overall mortality rates is equal to 1.11 for all children (95% CI 0.54 to 2.10), 1.50 for boys (95% CI 0.72 to 2.89) and 0.00 for girls – that is, the voucher offer is perfectly protective for mortality for girls (95% CI 0 to 0.79). This research also addresses a methodological issue that may arise in studies of low-probability outcomes – perfect prediction by key explanatory variables.