Selecting for Safety: A Qualitative Meta-analysis of Neighborhood Violence and Residential Decision Making
Many studies have established that people in high poverty neighborhoods who select to participate in housing mobility programs cite crime and violence as primary motivations for wanting to make a residential move. Using a novel approach, we analyzed qualitative data across several studies to explore the frequency and dimensions of safety concerns, relating these to the role of neighborhood forces in the residential decision-making process. We asked the following questions: What are the sources and frequency of motivations for residential mobility among participants? In what ways does neighborhood violence factor into residential mobility? Does a more accurate understanding of the role played by neighborhood violence in residential mobility have either theoretical or practical implications for practitioners or policy makers? Qualitative data pertinent to voucher programs, neighborhood crime and residential decision making were gleaned from 20 studies published between the years 2000 and 2014. Our meta-synthesis revealed not only that neighborhood violence is a key factor in the decision making of voucher holders but also a complex one. Violence affects all of the factors that participants consider in the relocation equation: the needs of the household, housing unit features, the prospective neighborhood and its institutions and how these will affect both participants and their dependent children. We also consider the policy implications of the costs to opportunity incurred as a result of neighborhood violence and the magnitude of the role that neighborhood violence plays in shaping residential decision making.