People who move from a poor region to a richer one typically experience long-term health benefits, research has shown.
A study undertaken at the University of Chicago and partner institutions, which was published in the journal Science and entitled Neighborhood Effects on the Long-Term Well-Being of Low-Income Adults, revealed that this occurs even if the individual's economic self-sufficiency remains the same.
As well as reducing the likelihood of a person needing treatment on international health insurance policies, relocating to a less-disadvantaged neighbourhood was also linked to a significant increase in the individual's happiness.
Researchers used data from a randomised social experiment entitled Moving to Opportunity and found that the income segregation of neighbourhoods is a more significant factor than racial segregation in shaping adult outcomes.
A total of 4,604 low-income households were analysed by the investigators, with the research paper examining the outcomes of Moving to Opportunity participants ten to 15 years after they settled in another neighbourhood.
Moving to Opportunity involved using a random lottery to provide families in poor-quality public housing projects the opportunity to move to a richer area.
It was operated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and ran from 1994 to 1998, examining five cities – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Baltimore.
Generally, people became involved in the scheme because they wished to find better schools for offspring to go to, live in a more pleasant apartment or escape from drug and gang activity.
"Focusing just on trends in income inequality over time in the US, while ignoring the growth of income segregation over time, understates the trends towards greater inequality in well-being in America," lead author of the follow-up study Jens Ludwig said.
Mr Ludwig is also director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the McCormick Foundation's Professor of Social Service Administration, Law and Public Policy.
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