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Fighting poverty: Ending segregation helps the poor move up
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There are lots of programs to lift families out of poverty, but one of the most effective in the last few decades has lifted them out of neighborhoods pocked with drugs and violence and set them down with a new life in a new place.

In Chicago, a program referred to as Gautreaux was the result of a lawsuit filed in 1966, which decreed that the Chicago Housing Authority provide rent vouchers for black residents to move to white suburbs in an effort in desegregation.

Applicants flocked to the program looking for an escape from crime, better living conditions and better schools. The program was so popular in 1984 that on the one day that families could enroll, so many showed up that registration was canceled because police were worried they couldn't control the crowd, and 10,000 applicants called in one day, according to a Stanford report on Guatreaux.

Between 1976 and 1998, more than 25,000 people relocated to more than 100 communities in the Chicago area, half to integrated suburbs, and half to integrated urban areas.

The result? The children of those families were more likely to graduate from high school, attend four-year colleges and be employed with higher pay and benefits. They were much less likely to be on assistance programs.

The Baltimore Mobility Program, which has provided vouchers for 2,600 families since 2003, has similar findings. The Baltimore program moves residents to areas that are less than 10 percent poor, less than 30 percent black, and no more than 5 percent of residents are in subsidized housing.

Stefanie DeLuca, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins, told the Atlantic that they did an in-depth study of 100 families with BMP, and found that living in a new neighborhood offered families better choices in housing and schooling, and they had higher expectations for their neighborhood and better appreciation for diversity.

Of course, moving some families out doesn't help the families that are left behind. The bigger challenge is to help more people who are affected by concentrated poverty.

Chicago's leaders are targeting programs that help low-income families get good access to transit and jobs, homeownership, low commute times and other programs that lift the well-being and quality of life for poor families.

Disadvantaged families have only been exposed to low-performing schools and unsafe neighborhoods, and have to come to expect the inevitability of those things, DeLuca told the Atlantic. Experiences like the ones families had with Gautreaux and the Baltimore program its eye-opening. It opens up a whole world of possibilities, and its hard to understate the transformative power of that.