Some cities are trying to help poor children succeed by having their families move to middle-income, so-called “opportunity areas” – an idea that was once politically impossible.

A New Housing Program to Fight Poverty has an Unexpected History

Producer: Scott Michels
Associate Producer: Meral Agish

What role does housing, and where you call “home,” play in upward mobility and the American Dream? In this story we meet the Morris family, an African-American mother with three daughters, who discuss the impact moving from inner city Chicago to the mostly-white suburbs had on their lives.

In the 1970s, a landmark Supreme Court case named Gautreaux officially brought an end to segregated government housing in Chicago. But it also created a new challenge: how to undo decades of segregation. One part the solution was a relocation program that moved families from the city’s housing ‘projects’ to the mostly-white suburbs.

The Gautreaux program showed surprising promise not just in ending segregation but also in creating upward mobility and helping children escape poverty. But when the federal government tried to replicate a similar program in other cities, the results were disappointing.

Now, forty years later, new researchers are taking a second look at the initial results – and calling attention again to the importance of where children grow up on their future success.

A disappointing footnote to this story: After two years of harassment by white supremacists, Kiah Morris resigned as Vermont’s only black female representative. The man who targeted her most insistently won’t face any charges due to freedom of speech.

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