Penn Researchers Lead Study on Children in Assisted-housing Programs, Educational Outcomes

PHILADELPHIA – Two University of Pennsylvania researchers from the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Policy & Practice are leading an interdisciplinary effort to study the educational well-being of children in assisted-housing programs.

The study will examine and link individual student records and assisted-housing records to determine how children in various programs fare in terms of their academic achievement, educational attainment and behavioral adjustment compared to a group of children who do not reside in assisted housing.

During the next two years, with the help of a $1.275 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation Dennis Culhane and John Fantuzzo will conduct a study in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Michigan and Washington state, which all have both housing and educational data as part of their integrated-database systems

Each site has established and tested high-quality longitudinal data systems that integrate, or share, data across educational and human-services systems.

The research in Washington will be funded through a $275,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the others through the MacArthur grant.

Fantuzzo, a professor in the Graduate School of Education, is an expert in early childhood risk, early childhood education, Head Start programs, child maltreatment and family violence.

Culhane, a professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice, is an expert in homelessness and assisted-housing policy.  His research has addressed housing emergencies and long-term homelessness among various populations, including vulnerable youth and young adults transitioning from foster care, juvenile justice and residential-treatment services.

 “One goal is to have the policy-relevant research inquiry of this study foster sustainable inter-agency communication and policy change,” Culhane said.  “Another is to have this multi-site study become a model for how other municipalities and the states can use integrated data systems to answer critical questions in the areas of assisted housing and educational well-being.”

“The study is designed to be replicated in every state and local municipality by using publicly monitored data accessible to local and state government,” Fantuzzo said. “Each step of this research process will be intentionally documented such that multi-site studies using integrated housing and education data could be replicated and scaled nationally should assisted housing data become available.”

All five locations are members of the MacArthur-funded Intelligence for Social Policy network, which was established after these sites were identified in a 2008 national study done by Culhane and Fantuzzo to locate existing integrated-data systems.  The project promotes the development of integrated-database systems by states and localities for policy analysis and systems reform.

 “This work represents meaningful collaborations between systems at multiple levels that foster the flow of information between researchers, policymakers and community supporters in the areas of housing and education,” Culhane said.

The researchers hope the study will create or reinforce inter-agency dialogue surrounding the current state of assisted housing and education.  They are currently working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make assisted-housing data more readily available for research purposes.