Subsidized Housing, Public Housing and Adolescent Violence and Substance Use
Public housing projects were once the norm in the United States, but their negative social and economic impacts led to the adoption of subsidized housing as the preferred alternative. While studies have confirmed the increased criminal activity and substance abuse in and around public housing, there is limited research on the behavior of the residents of public or subsidized housing, generally through vouchers.
A 2012 study by Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis published in Youth & Society, “Subsidized Housing, Public Housing and Adolescent Violence and Substance Use,” examines the connection between public or subsidized housing and illegal activities by adolescents. The study compiled data on drug use and violent behavior for 2,530 adolescents age 14 to 19 living with their mothers in either public housing projects or subsidized housing in 2002 and 2004, and compared those findings to data for adolescents not living in public housing during the same time period.
Key study findings include:
- Teens living in housing subsidized by vouchers have a 9% lower violence rate, 8% lower prevalence of heavy marijuana or alcohol use, and a 5% decrease in other drug use compared to teens living in public housing projects and in non-public housing.
- Adolescents living in public or subsidized housing were 31% less likely to engage in violent behavior compared to those living outside public housing.
- No significant effect of living in public or subsidized housing was found relating to the use of alcohol, marijuana or hard drugs compared to similar teens not receiving housing assistance.
- Approximately 64% of subsidized housing residents and 52% of public housing residents are Black or Hispanic; “a large majority of the teens live in urban areas.”
- Mothers receiving housing assistance report higher high school dropout, unemployment and single parenting rates as well as lower household incomes than those living in non-subsidized housing.
The study results challenge the belief that youth in public housing are more likely to be violent or use drugs than their peers, the researcher states, and are consistent with previous findings on the positive social benefits of housing vouchers. “Teen violence and substance use at public housing complexes derives from teens [who live] outside the housing unit.”
Tags: youth, drugs, crime, African-American, Latino, Hispanic
Read the issue-related Boston Review article titled "Neighborhood Matters: Do Housing Vouchers Work?"
- What key insights from the article and study should reporters be aware of as they cover the effects of subsidized housing vouchers?
Read the Youth & Society study titled “Subsidized Housing, Public Housing and Adolescent Violence and Substance Use.”
- What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?