A Call for Proposals – HUD’s Randomized Evaluation Data
Mark Shroder, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research, Evaluation, and Monitoring
This fall, HUD announced a second competition to support access to the data from two of HUD’s most important randomized social experiments, the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) demonstration and the Family Options Study. HUD has partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to make the experimental data more available to qualified researchers and more readily matched with additional administrative data.
HUD anticipates that these efforts will foster more rapid knowledge discovery and permit evidence building beyond the original scope and time horizon of the publicly funded projects. We want to learn as much as possible from data that have already been collected at considerable taxpayer expense to improve federal programs and policies.
The MTO demonstration examined whether having low-income families move from high-poverty neighborhoods to lower-poverty communities improves their social and economic prospects. Between 1994 and 1998, 4,600 families from high-poverty public housing projects in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Participants assigned to the first group received a housing voucher that they could use only in low-poverty neighborhoods, those in the second group received a housing voucher without that limitation, and those assigned to the control group could continue to live in public housing. Participating families were tracked directly through 2010, and some matching exercises from later data have also been conducted. The power of the experimental design permits researchers to determine the effect of neighborhoods on the lives of low-income families with children without bias from self-selection or other omitted variables.
The Family Options Study examined housing and services interventions to determine which ones work best for families with children experiencing homelessness and whether the interventions benefit some families more than others. Between 2010 and 2012, a total of 2,282 families in 12 communities nationwide, including more than 5,000 children, were recruited into the study after staying at least 1 week in emergency shelter. Participating families were assigned randomly to one of four possible interventions that differed in the duration of housing assistance provided or in the intensity of social services offered, including a long-term housing subsidy, usually in the form of a housing choice voucher, with no specialized services; community-based rapid rehousing, which is temporary rental assistance for up to 18 months with limited housing-related services; project-based transitional housing, which is temporary housing for up to 24 months in an agency-controlled building coupled with intensive supportive services; and usual care, which is whatever mix of housing and services that homeless families may access from shelter on their own without direct referral to one of the other interventions. Participating families were followed for 3 years after random assignment, with extensive surveys of families conducted at baseline and again approximately 20 and 37 months after random assignment. The power of the experimental design permits researchers to determine the impact of these four different policy options on the well-being of families and children and the societal cost of each intervention.
This competition is designed to spur interest in and expand access to these unique data for ongoing evidence-building efforts. HUD and U.S. Census Bureau program or research staff will review each proposal, and up to three winners will be announced in December 2018. Included in the award are the costs to obtain special sworn status for researchers; to draft, route, and review the project agreement; to ingest, process, and provision any outside data; to provide technical and administrative assistance during the analyses; and to assist with disclosure review for the final analyses. The estimated in-kind value of the prize is $30,000. This award is not a direct transfer of funds to the researchers; rather, it covers costs otherwise associated with accessing the data.
Applications for the second round of this competition are due November 2, 2018. Researchers with questions about either study or this Request for Proposals are encouraged to contact Chris Narducci at Christopher.J.Narducci@hud.gov.