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Housing Allowance Demand Experiment

This was the first of Abt Associates' several well-known experimental design housing studies. It showed that tenant-based housing subsidies were a feasible means of improving the quality and affordability of housing for low-income families. The Housing Allowance Demand Experiment was a household-oriented study in which direct payments were made to low-income households in need of better housing. The primary purpose of the Demand Experiment was to provide policymakers with estimates of participant response (to varying several program parameters) in terms of participation, the quality and cost of housing secured, locational choice, and participant satisfaction.

Approximately 1,200 households at each of two sites (Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and Phoenix and Maricopa County, Arizona) were offered varying forms of housing allowance payments over a three-year period. In addition, about 500 control households were monitored in each site, to serve as a reference for responses induced by treatments (variations in the amount and form of the allowance). Observations of the responses were obtained primarily through interviews, household reports, and housing evaluations.

Abt Associates was responsible for the experimental design and analysis, for the development of survey instruments, for the conduct of all site operations — including enrollment, income and household size verification, payments and housing inspections for data analysis and reporting — and for survey tasks and the provision of housing information.