A large and growing body of research shows that neighborhoods matter for several life outcomes including economic mobility, education, and safety. For many reasons, positive neighborhood attributes remain unattainable for low-income households in many U.S. metropolitan areas. Professor Lens' work fulfills gaps in the literature that evaluates the potential for housing policy to reduce this separation by focusing on neighborhood safety and access to jobs. This research contributes to this literature in both conceptual and empirical ways. Specifically, this research 1) measures the neighborhood conditions of families that receive housing subsidies; 2) analyzes the potential interactions of crime with subsidized housing and commercial development; 3) identifies how residential location affects employment outcomes; and 4) improves how scholars and policy makers measure neighborhood opportunity for low-income households.
In recent research, Professor Lens is studying the effect of the housing bust on housing subsidy demand and local government finances, the role of public investments in gentrification processes, and the spatial concentration of eviction. Professor Lens' research has won awards from the Journal of the American Planning Association and Housing Policy Debate.
Among several grants, Professor Lens has - along with fellow UCLA Urban Planning Professor Paavo Monkkonen - a multiyear grant from the MacArthur Foundation to study the effect of the housing boom and bust on local government finances.
Professor Lens teaches courses on Quantitative Analysis, Community-Based Research, Housing Markets and Policy, Poverty and Inequality, and Research Methods.
Refereed Journal Articles
Lens, Michael C., and Vincent Reina. “The Impact of Housing Subsidy Expirations on Neighborhood Opportunity.” Housing Policy Debate. Forthcoming.
Lens, Michael C., and C.J. Gabbe. “Employment Proximity and Outcomes for Moving to Opportunity Families.” Journal of Urban Affairs. Forthcoming.
Lens, Michael C., and Rachel Meltzer. “Is Crime Bad for Business? New York City Neighborhoods 2004 to 2010.” Journal of Regional Science, Forthcoming
Lens, Michael C. “Measuring the Geography of Opportunity.” Progress in Human Geography, Forthcoming
Lens, Michael C., and Paavo Monkkonen. 2016. “Housing Market Regulation and Economic Segregation.” Journal of the American Planning Association, 82(1): 6-21.
Lens, Michael C. 2014. “Job Accessibility Among Housing Subsidy Recipients.” Housing Policy Debate 24(4): 671-691. Best Paper of 2013-14, Housing Policy Debate.
Lens, Michael C. 2014. “The Impact of Housing Vouchers on Crime in U.S. Cities and Suburbs.” Urban Studies 51(6): 1274-1289.
Lens, Michael C. 2013. “The Limits of Housing Investment as a Revitalization Tool: Crime in New York City.” Journal of the American Planning Association 79(3): 211-221. Best Paper of Volume 79, Journal of the American Planning Association.
Lens, Michael C. 2013. “Safe, but Could Be Safer: Why Do Voucher Households Live in Higher Crime Neighborhoods?” Cityscape 15(3): 131-152.
Lens, Michael C. 2013. “Subsidized Housing and Crime: Theory, Mechanisms, and Evidence.” Journal of Planning Literature 28(4): 352-363.
Ellen, Ingrid Gould, Michael C. Lens, and Katherine M. O’Regan. 2012. “American Murder Mystery Revisited: Do Housing Voucher Households Cause Crime?” Housing Policy Debate, 22(4): 551-572.
Lens, Michael C., Ingrid Gould Ellen, and Katherine M. O’Regan. 2011. “Do Vouchers Help Low-Income Households Live in Safer Neighborhoods? Evidence on the Housing Choice Voucher Program.” Cityscape, 13(3): 135-159.
Papers in Progress
Sugie, Naomi and Michael C. Lens. “Spatial Job Search, Residential Job Accessibility, and Employment Outcomes for Returning Parolees.” Revise and resubmit (Demography)
Lens, Michael C. “Housing Subsidy Demand During The Great Recession.” Revise and resubmit (Urban Studies)