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Eviction hits hardest in the South, Midwest, study finds

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Apartment List analysis at rental insecurity across the U.S. finds single mothers face high rates of evictions.


While the affordability crisis affecting housing across the country has become a pressing issue, one of the sad results of this era of continually rising rents, evictions, is less understood.

To help grasp the prevalence and impact of evictions, Apartment List analyzed data from its users to create a larger trend report, estimating eviction rates around the country. The results drawn from 41,000 surveys and the anonymized data of millions of users, echo the difficulties caused by rising rent payment. Nearly one in five survey respondents reported they were unable to pay rent in full for at least one of the last three months. The data leads the authors to suggest an estimated 3.7 million out of the country’s 118 million renters have been evicted.

By design, this type of data collection and this subject suggest the estimate is more likely understated. But it underlines the precariousness many feel with regards to rent payment. The analysis found that 18 percent of respondents had difficulty paying rent within the last three months, a figure that rises to 27.5 percent in low-income housing.

An analysis of rental data by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that 38.9 million U.S. renters are cost-burdened (paying more than 30 percent of income for rent), with 18.8 million of those severely cost-burdened ( paying more than 50 percent of income for rent).

The Apartment List report, written by housing economist Chris Salviati, found different groups faced higher rates of eviction. Those with just a high school diploma are more than three times as likely to have faced an eviction threat than those with a bachelor’s degree, and 11 percent of those earning $30,000 annually faced an eviction threat in the past year (only 3.1 percent of those earning $60,000 faced eviction). Black households faced higher rates of eviction, even after being controlled for education and income.

The data also showed that households with children struggled more to pay rent, with the report noting the “essential but often overwhelming expense” childcare poses for many families. Of single parent households surveyed, 30.1 percent reported difficulty paying rent, compared to 27.2 percent of married couples with kids and 14.7 of single respondents having similar issues. Among tenants who appear in eviction court, those with children are actually significantly more likely to be evicted.

The results of this type of displacement are severe. Previous research, including studies by sociologist and Evicted author Matthew Desmond, shows that mothers who have recently been evicted are more than twice as likely to report their children in poor health. The study also discovered the impacts of eviction were long lasting; evicted mothers still reported significantly higher rates of material hardship and depression two years after eviction. Timed during an important phase in childhood development, the report concluded that evictions would have a “durable impact on children’s wellbeing.”

The study also looked at city-level data for evictions, and found that cities in the South and Midwest tended to have many of the highest eviction rates (Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, and Indianapolis rounded out the top five). In many cases, high-rent coastal areas, especially those in California, had lower rates than cities such as Memphis, which recorded a 6.1 percent eviction rate. The authors noted that the combination of stronger job markets and more robust tenant protection laws helped more expensive cities maintain lower eviction rates, despite increased rent pressures.