Article written by 2007 DPDF The Political Economy of Redistribution Fellow Rachel Meltzer and Alex Schwartz:
It is generally understood that households make tradeoffs between housing costs and other living expenses. In this article, we examine the relationship between health-related outcomes and housing-induced financial burdens for renters in one of the most expensive cities in the world, New York, New York. Drawing from the Housing Vacancy Survey for 2011, a representative survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau of more than 16,000 households in New York City, we estimate the effect of housing cost burden on the overall health of renters and the extent to which they have postponed various types of medical services for financial reasons. Results show that higher out-of-pocket rent burdens are associated with worse self-reported health conditions and a higher likelihood to postpone medical services for financial reasons. This relationship is particularly strong for those households with severe rent burdens. In addition, housing cost burden is equally or more important than other physical housing characteristics in explaining the variation in self-reported general health status and health care postponement. These findings are robust across specifications with different degrees of household, unit/building, and neighborhood controls, and among longstanding and newer renters. Our findings point to the importance of considering health-related outcomes when designing housing policies, and that housing subsidies should target both renters’ out-of-pocket costs and place-based repair and maintenance.