Vital Links: Housing’s Contributions to the Nation’s Health and Education Objectives

Advocates of affordable homes have long understood that housing is more than just “bricks and mortar.” A new installment in the Insights from Housing Policy Research series from the Center for Housing Policy collects and analyzes available research evidence that frames the many ways in which our homes and the neighborhoods where we live may affect health and educational outcomes. Some of these connections have been well-documented through years of rigorous study, while others need further examination. We identify these links and present the related research to increase understanding of the ways in which housing policy can be designed to enrich the lives of children and families.

For each of two topics–the contribution of affordable housing to health and the contribution of affordable housing to education–the Center has prepared a Research Summary and an Annotated Bibliography.

A related April 2011 report by Senior Research Associates Rebecca Cohen and Keith Wardrip, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children, looked into the health and educational effects that frequent moves and unstable housing situations have on children, and the role of affordable housing in promoting greater residential stability. 

For the original reports from 2007 on the same topics, visit our 2007 Vital Links page.

Housing and Health

The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health: A Research Summary

The direct effects of poor quality or unsafe housing on health are well established; researchers have also increasingly turned significant attention to the role of housing affordability in fostering stability and reducing stress. In her brief, The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health: A Research Summary, Cohen details the results of research on the pathways through which affordable housing can affect the health of residents, especially children.

Read the Research Summary (PDF)

Read the Annotated Bibliography (PDF)

Key Findings

  • The availability of high-quality affordable homes enables families to spend a greater share of household income on nutritious food, healthcare expenditures, and other essentials that promote good health. 
  • Affordable housing allows families to achieve greater residential stability, reducing the stress and disruptions associated with frequent or unwanted moves and providing a platform for individuals with chronic illnesses and other conditions to receive needed care.
  • By providing families with access to high quality homes in safe neighborhoods, certain affordable housing strategies can reduce stress and exposure to violent or traumatic events, generating important psychological and mental health benefits

Housing and Education

The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Education: A Research Summary

The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Education: A Research Summary, a brief by Senior Research Associate Maya Brennan, uncovers a wealth of research suggesting that stable, affordable housing provides children with enhanced opportunities for educational success.  The brief reviews literature showing that the supportive and stable home environment encouraged by high-quality, affordable housing often leads to better educational outcomes.

Read the Research Summary (PDF)

Read the Annotated Bibliography (PDF)

Key Findings

  • Stable, affordable housing complements the efforts of educators, leading to better student achievement, reduced absenteeism, and reductions in student turnover rates.
  • Affordable housing can reduce the frequency of unwanted moves that disrupt children's education and, in classrooms with high turnover rates, have negative spillover effects on teachers and classmates. 
  • Housing assistance that reduces concentrated poverty and helps families access neighborhoods of opportunity can improve children's educational achievement, leading to higher test scores and an increased likelihood of completing high school and enrolling in college.

We hope these documents will be useful tools for better articulating the contributions of affordable housing and encouraging stronger and more direct linkages between housing and other key societal objectives to help ensure a brighter future for America’s children and families.

Readers are invited to provide feedback on these materials by sending an e-mail to



The Center for Housing Policy gratefully acknowledges funding for these reports from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as well as the support and partnership of Enterprise Community Partners for the earlier research reviews on which these new reports are based.  Any error or opinions, however, are those of the authors alone.