Are teens in HUD-assisted housing more likely to have had adverse childhood experiences, like abuse and neglect? Does living in HUD-assisted housing as a teen lead to better or worse health as an adult? Are adults who lived in different types of HUD-assisted housing—such as public housing or Housing Choice Vouchers—as teens healthier?

These are the questions posed in a new study by three researchers from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Jon Hussey, research assistant professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health; Bill Rohe, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of City and Regional Planning and director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS); and Michael Webb, project manager and senior research associate at CURS.

Jon Hussey, Bill Rohe and Michael Webb
Jon Hussey, Bill Rohe and Michael Webb

Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the project is called “Understanding the Role of Adolescent Housing Residence on Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trajectories of Chronic Disease Risk.” It will link HUD administrative data with the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Add Health is a nationally-representative, longitudinal dataset that includes self-reported health problems, such as depression and substance abuse, and biomarkers of disease such as diabetes and hypertension.

“This merged dataset will provide an unprecedented opportunity to study how residing in HUD-assisted housing affects health trajectories both in this project and in future projects conducted by other researchers,” said Rohe.

In general, public housing residents tend to have very poor health, which is likely due to it being a “safety net” for extremely-low income individuals—who are themselves more likely to suffer from numerous health issues. However, existing research is plagued by the lack of longitudinal data, reliance on self-reported measures of health and the lack of comparison groups.

“This project will avoid these limitations by linking HUD administrative records to Add Health data to investigate whether teen residence in HUD-assisted housing is related to exposure to adverse childhood experiences and chronic disease later in life,” noted Hussey. “Or, because subsidized housing can increase housing stability, children residing in it may have lower levels of household stress, be more resilient (to adverse experiences) and have improved health trajectories.”

This is a two-year project with the results expected to be available in mid-2020.

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