Neighborhood Effects, Opportunity Analysis, and Fair Housing


  • The concept of neighborhood effects and how they shape life chances and social mobility of local residents
  • The techniques of opportunity analysis and how these techniques further fair housing, and facilitate sustainable development planning and opportunity mapping
  • How to use opportunity mapping tools to perform opportunity analysis and meet new fair housing regulations


The spatial pattern of factors that shape opportunities for low-income residents to escape the cycle of poverty has been of great concern to urban planners. Conceptually, the notion of opportunity is both simple and intuitive: neighborhoods, as unique packages of resources, institutions and socializing agents, play a significant role in determining the welfare and life chances of their residents.  

Many attempts have been made to quantify the geography of opportunity and quite literally plot it on a map by combining evidence from studies on neighborhood effects with rapidly expanding spatial data resources and GIS technology.  These opportunity maps have not only become increasingly common planning tools but their preparation has been encouraged and facilitated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help local governments meet new fair housing regulations.  

This course addresses the concept of access to opportunity and how opportunity analyses have been used across the nation to meet newly established fair housing rules and to develop regional sustainability plans.  It also presents the results of a case study in Baltimore, Maryland, where residents from across the region were asked to define opportunity and identify the extent to which their neighborhood provided access to opportunity.