Laura Tach: Public Housing Redevelopment, Neighborhood Change, and the Restructuring of Urban Inequality

Laura Tach is a sociologist who studies urban poverty and family life. Her mixed-methods research examines how neighborhoods and families reproduce inequality and how public policy affects these processes. She received her Ph.D. in sociology and social policy at Harvard University. Prior to joining the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, Tach was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.


Housing policy plays a central role in the reproduction of urban inequalities among people and places. This study asks whether one such policy — public housing redevelopment — has altered the trajectories of high poverty, racially segregated neighborhoods and reduced urban neighborhood inequality. Using a novel spatially-integrated dataset combining administrative data with Census data for 168 U.S. cities, the study finds that redevelopment had significant direct and indirect spillover effects on neighborhood racial and economic composition between 1990 and 2010. The change induced by public housing redevelopment was ecologically significant, altering durable racial and economic hierarchies among urban neighborhoods. However, the improvements for poor, minority places came at the expense of poor, minority people — about four-fifths of neighborhood change was due to displacement of poor and minority residents. The study evaluates the significance of these results for theories of neighborhood effects, gentrification, and durable urban inequality, and discusses implications for urban policy.