“Growing up, I never stayed at one school for a certain amount of time. I only stayed there for like two years at most. We moved around a lot here in the area, elementary and junior high. Of all the schools
I went to, the one I probably got the most out of would be high school, because I stayed there for three years. I would say that everything I learned from school was probably from there.” – Vivian
Residential instability can have devastating and long-lasting impacts on families and children. A new report from the Center for Housing Policy, entitled Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exploring the Effects of Instability and Mobility on Children, takes a fresh look at mobility and suggests that it may not be whether you move, but why and how often.
Like other households, low-income families move for a variety of reasons, including to be closer to a new job or school or to accommodate a growing family. In some cases, however, involuntary circumstances, such as a foreclosure or eviction, leave families with little time and few resources to find a new place to live. The research reviewed in the preparation of this paper suggests that children and families who undertake these unplanned or involuntary moves tend to experience increased school absenteeism and higher levels of neighborhood problems, including vandalism, muggings, drug dealing, and gang activity, compared with voluntary movers.
According to the study, frequent moves also jeopardize children’s health, emotional and behavioral development, and educational performance—resulting in performance deficits of up to one year behind grade level. As illustrated in Vivian’s story, staying in place can afford children the opportunity to catch up to their peers.
Findings presented in this report are drawn from four basis reports commissioned by the Center for Housing Policy. Together, these reports highlight the importance of emergency rent assistance, eviction prevention services, and homeownership counseling programs—all of which help to stabilize families in crisis and enable them to remain in their homes.