Tenant-Based v. Project-based Housing Assistance: Evidence From a Housing Assistance Lottery

Project Summary

The project team studied the effect of tenant-based housing vouchers and public housing programs on the health outcomes of vulnerable individuals and families. The study took advantage of a natural experiment in which a unique housing assistance lottery produced random offers of public housing or housing vouchers to a subset of wait-list households.

Research Question(s)

  • What are the effects of public housing admission on child and adult health?
  • What are the effects of housing voucher receipt on child and adult health?
  • Are public housing or housing vouchers more effective at improving health outcomes of low-income children and adults? And how does this relate to the neighborhood quality differences generated by program participation?


  • Inform policymakers, public housing authorities, and public health practitioners about whether project-based or tenant-based subsidies are better at supporting the health of low-income children and adults and the trade-off between these approaches.


Primary: Asthma & Respiratory Infections; Assault (by firearms and other means); Pregnancy; Mental Health (Generalized Anxiety, Depressive Disorder, Acute Stress Reaction)
Secondary: Injuries (residential falls, accidents at home); Developmental Delays; Circulatory Problems

Primary: Mental Health (Generalized Anxiety, Depressive Disorder, Acute Stress Reaction); Circulatory Problems, Heart Failure; Asthma and Respiratory Infections; Injuries (residential falls, accidents at home)
Secondary: Assault (by firearm and other means); Sunburn and Heat Stroke; Battered by Spouse or Partner


Two-stage least squares using the initial random wait-list positions for public housing and vouchers as instruments for take-up of public housing and voucher assistance to estimate Local Average Treatment Effects (LATEs) and Ordinary Least Squares for reduced-form Intent-to-Treat (ITT) estimates.

Family walking into a house
Grantee and Partner organizations

New York University, Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service
University of South Florida - Policy and Services Research Data Center

Grant status
Principal investigators
Ingrid G. Ellen, PhD
Robert Collinson, MA, MPP
Start date
Award amount
24 months

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