Do the Joneses Help You Keep Up? A Natural Experiment in Exposure to Nonpoor Neighbors

H. Schwartz, S. Burkhauser, B. A. Griffin, D. P. Kennedy, H. D. Green,, A. Kennedy-Hendricks, C. E. Pollack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study capitalizes on a natural experiment in Montgomery County, Maryland, where low-income applicant families are randomly assigned to public housing that is either (a) clustered within seven public housing developments or (b) scattered into market-rate subdivisions via the county's inclusionary zoning policy. Through a survey of 453 public housing residents, we find that adults who lived in scattered public housing reported a lower proportion of low-socioeconomic status (SES) social ties generally and a lower proportion of low-SES neighbors specifically in their social networks. They also counted more high-SES individuals in their social networks, and this effect was related to the amount of time they lived in the neighborhood. Living in scattered public housing had no adverse effect on feelings of neighborhood belonging or satisfaction. The socioeconomic composition of respondents' social networks was associated with two health outcomes for respondents (smoking and depression) and modestly associated with respondents' household income.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-352
Number of pages33
JournalHousing Policy Debate
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015


  • health
  • inclusionary zoning
  • public housing
  • social networks
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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