Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Planning, Design, and the Built Environment


Lauria, Mickey

Committee Member

Ellis , Clifford

Committee Member

Sperry , Stephen

Committee Member

Baldwin , Elizabeth


Research has linked neighborhoods of concentrated poverty with high crime, low employment, poor health, and low educational achievement. Because of these linkages, federal housing policy over the past few decades has often tried to 'deconcentrate' or disperse the poor from these neighborhoods into more affluent neighborhoods with the hope that better institutions and better neighbors will motivate these families to improve their lives. However research on large mobility programs such as Gautreaux and Moving to Opportunity (MTO), has found mostly mixed results and criticized the programs for having a small impact. Race and income have also proven to be significant barriers to low-income residents realizing the benefits of their new neighborhoods. These shortcomings have led to renewed interest in neighborhood revitalization efforts through federal policy. However, the mixed-income neighborhoods sought in many of these programs still assume that low-income residents utilize more affluent neighbors as role models to better their lives. This research instead examines the influence of residents who are similar in race and income to their neighbors, but motivated to better their lives. This investigation hypothesizes that Habitat for Humanity families are more motivated to better their lives than their neighbors because of Habitat's selection criteria and because they have completed the process of becoming a Habitat homeowner. The theory also suggests that Habitat homeowners have a positive effect on their neighbors, and their neighborhood. This effect is measured through components of social organization. The dissertation takes advantage of the Making Connections survey sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as well as qualitative interviews, neighborhood observations and GIS analysis in order to determine the effect Habitat homeowners have on their neighborhoods.