Federal Housing Assistance, Food Security, and Health

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A person’s housing has a number of attributes that directly and indirectly affect their health – affordability, quality, stability, and location. Despite the evidence of the importance of housing to health, little evidence exists regarding the effects of federal housing assistance programs on health. This assistance benefits 11 million people through three main programs: public housing, project-based Section 8 housing, and housing choice vouchers. To be eligible for these programs, household income must fall below 80 percent of the area median income; participants contribute 30 percent of their income toward rent and the local housing authority pays the rest.

Two national health surveys, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), were recently merged with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data to identify individuals receiving assistance between 1999 and 2012. The merged health and housing data provide a new opportunity to examine the relationship between housing assistance and both food security and health outcomes. We will perform analyses with these newly merged data sources to compare households receiving federal housing assistance (overall and by program type) with groups of similar non-assisted households and explore whether this assistance protects against food insecurity and housing-affected (e.g., asthma), nutrition-related (e.g., diabetes, hypertension), and general and mental (e.g., depression) health outcomes. Multivariate models will be used to assess the effects of federal housing assistance programs (overall and by program type) on food insecurity and the above mentioned health outcomes.