Last year Harvard University released an eye-opening report showing that children from poor families who move to better neighborhoods earlier in life have a better chance of attending college and earning more money.

Since then, reporters at The Boston Globe have been examining their own city's housing policies to see how it's possible for poor families to make the transition to wealthier neighborhoods. In one case, a mother was able to use a housing subsidy to move her kids to a better school district where they can play in their backyard without worry. Unfortunately, her story is an exception.

Just 21 percent of federally subsidized units in Eastern Massachusetts are in so-called high-opportunity neighborhoods, with ready access to jobs, healthy food, and quality schools.

That leaves 79 percent in moderate- and low-opportunity neighborhoods, block after block of housing projects and apartment complexes lining Franklin Park, surrounding Mattapan Square, and filling out struggling sections of Brockton and Lawrence.

Even federal Section 8 housing vouchers, which low-income families can use to rent moderately priced apartments anywhere, are clustered in the poorest communities in the region, the analysis shows.

The imbalance is not just a social concern. It may also be a violation of federal law.

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