This article uses culture of poverty and rational choice theories of poverty to explain how quickly nonelderly household heads leave public housing. Data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics serve as the basis for the analysis. Although a significant proportion of all household heads have public housing spells lasting five or more years, the majority have spells lasting less than five years. The availability of other housing options has a strong impact on how quickly individuals move out of public housing. To the extent that one's childhood experiences affect the likelihood of exiting public housing, they appear to do so mostly through their effect on the acquisition of human capital. Finally, the evidence presented is inconsistent with the notion that public housing is a trap from which it is more difficult to escape the longer one remains.