Journal of Public Management & Social Policy


The epic failure of fixed public housing projects supports the paradigm that poverty concentration makes poverty and the cycle of poverty intractable. Moreover, neoliberal, free-enterprise theorists interrogate the viability of the state as a provider of social goods and services and press the need for market-based schemes such as housing vouchers. However, how do you de-concentrate the poor voluntarily without government dictating residential choice? This article reports the results of the first ten years of a policy experiment leveraging a mobile voucher program to attempt to achieve voluntary dispersion and de-concentration of the poor in Phoenix, Arizona. Using Phoenix’s 308 census tracks as of 1998 as units of analysis, and examining the locational choices of the 5,139 families that received mobile housing vouchers between 1998 and 2009, this study finds that, although mobile voucher recipients dispersed somewhat throughout the research period, they were still geographically isolated in the southern poverty belt, housing mostly race and ethnic minority populations at the end of the ten-year period. The data suggest that race/ethnicity and patterns of residential segregation may hold some of the key to de-concentration. Ultimately, the level of de-concentration does not support the broader theory that mobile vouchers hold the key to poverty de-concentration.



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