2013 - April

When “Opportunity” Moves to You: How Living in a Gentrified Community Affects the Education and Environment of Youth in Public Housing



The Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing program gave families with children in urban public housing projects the chance to move from high-poverty neighborhoods to low-poverty neighborhoods in the hope that the move would improve their quality of life, health, and education. In Hoboken, New Jersey, public housing residents did not have to move to opportunity; instead, opportunity moved to them.

This dissertation tells a story of young people living in public housing in this gentrified community where they are part of a racial and socioeconomic minority. Through multiple methods of qualitative analysis, including ethnography, youth participatory research, interviews, and a focus group, as well as analysis of archival sources, the researcher investigated the educational and environmental experiences of young people living in public housing in Hoboken, New Jersey. Using these methods and applying theories of neoliberalism, social and cultural capital, and political economy of place, the study examines the following: demographic, environmental, and educational characteristics of Hoboken; demographics of the Hoboken district-run public schools and whether or not they reflect those of the community; who attends which district-run public schools, and why; who applies to charter schools, who does not, and why; how school choice has influenced the education of youth in public housing; what environmental advantages and disadvantages are offered to youth who live in public housing in gentrified Hoboken; how youth in public housing relate to their gentrified community; and the implications of these findings for housing policy and education policy.

The findings show that, while these young people experience environmental advantages related to living in a gentrified community, they still predominantly attend segregated schools. In an era when public housing is being demolished to be replaced by mixed-income development and school choice policies are proliferating, these findings have implications for both education and public housing policy.

No previous study has analyzed how gentrification may influence youth in low-income public housing who can remain in their community to reap possible advantages. This is also the only study of the education of youth in public housing in a gentrified community.



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