NYT Magazine had an interesting piece on the experience of a woman and her family who were forced out of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago when it was torn down in 2010. The article tells readers that she was unhappy to be forced to leave an apartment that had been her home for more than two decades and where she had raised 13 children. The experience of her and her family in the public housing to which they were relocated proved disastrous, and she ended up dying a seemingly preventable death less than four years later.

While the story presented here is, in fact, tragic, the piece misleadingly implies that Cabrini-Green residents were better off before the high-rise complex was destroyed. This may have been true for some, but that is not likely the case for most of the people who left the project.

A recent re-analysis of data from the "Moving to Opportunity" study conducted in the 1990s found large improvement in school graduation rates and other outcomes for children who left housing in areas of high poverty. A more recent analysis, of outcomes for people who left public housing when the Robert Taylor homes on Chicago's south side were destroyed, found even larger effects. 

The story of Annie Ricks, the woman featured in the NYT piece, is indeed horrible. It reflects the way low-income people, and especially low-income black people, are treated in the United States. But it is absurd to imply that housing projects like Cabrini-Green were somehow good living arrangements for people. This doesn't mean that at least some of the former residents would not find these projects better than their alternatives, but it is irresponsible to suggest that, in general, this is the case when there is clear evidence showing the opposite.

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