Families that have a severe housing cost burden were much more likely to have moved in the past two years than families living in affordable housing, 54 percent versus 32 percent respectively, according to a report by the Center for Housing Policy.

 “Should I Stay or Should I Go?:  Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children”  looks at the relationship between affordable housing, residential stability, and the effects of moving on children.

While reasons for moving vary, the data and interviews of low-income families show that moves resulting from unplanned or involuntary circumstances, such as an eviction or foreclosure, and moves that occur one after another as part of a pattern of frequent mobility tend to have negative impacts on child and family welfare, such as increased school absenteeism and a higher incidence of neighborhood problems, said the Center, the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference.

 “The findings were especially troubling for children of what we call ‘hyper-mobile’ families, who move far more often than average.  These kids lagged behind their peers with greater residential stability in their educational development,” said Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of the Center.  “Affordable housing may help low-income families with children avoid unplanned moves.”

The center commissioned four research reports, each exploring a different data set to provide insight into the issue. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provided funding for the report.

Key findings include:

  • An analysis of American Housing Survey data finds that 55 percent of children in poor families had moved within the past 24 months, compared with only 31 percent of children in non-poor families;
  • Families that have a severe housing cost burden (spending more than 50 percent of income on housing) were much more likely to have moved in the past 24 months, compared with families living in affordable housing (54 percent versus 32 percent, respectively);
  • Nearly 20 percent of participants in one study cited in the report had moved more than six times in six years.  Compared with other families, frequent movers tend to be younger, lack a high school diploma, and report poor mental health and a history of domestic violence;
  • According to research completed to inform this report, families that undergo involuntary or unplanned moves tend to experience a variety of negative outcomes following the move, such as increased and excessive school absenteeism among children and higher levels of neighborhood problems, including vandalism, prostitution, muggings, drug use, and gangs. These families also tend to have a history of unaffordable housing, job loss, and poor health prior to moving.