A new project at Princeton University, the Eviction Lab, studied 80 million eviction records going back to 2000 and found a staggering number of Americans being evicted from their homes.
According to the Eviction Lab, there were nearly four evictions filed every minute in 2016, which means 6,300 Americans were evicted every day.
Matthew Desmond, a professor of sociology who runs the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, told Democracy Now about the eviction epidemic sweeping the U.S.:
So, we know, in 2016, which is the most recent data we have, because it’s comprehensive, there were about 2.3 million people that received an eviction judgment. That’s a giant number. And let’s just try to put that in perspective.
That’s twice the number of people that get arrested for drugs every year in America, for example. We heard a lot about the opioid crisis last year, and for good reason. There were 63,000 overdose deaths last year.
There were about 2.3 million people evicted from their homes. So, for every overdose, tragic overdose, there’s 36 people that receive an eviction judgment.
This is a problem of colossal importance and scope, and it’s affecting not only big cities and expensive cities on the coast, but it’s affecting midsize cities and small towns all across America.
Desmond explained how eviction affects American families:
So we’re in the middle of a housing crisis. Incomes have flatlined. Housing costs have soared. And most people that need housing assistance don’t get it. So the majority of poor working families today are spending at least 50 percent of their income on housing costs.
One in four are spending over 70 percent of their income just on rent and utilities. So we’ve pushed millions of families to the brink of eviction.
So, what does that do to a family? Well, it causes loss. Families lose not only their homes, but children often lose their schools. You often lose your things, which are piled on the sidewalk or taken by movers.
And eviction comes with an official mark or a blemish, and that can prevent you from moving into safe housing in a good neighborhood. It can also prevent you from moving into public housing.
So, after families are evicted and they go through a spell of homelessness, they often relocate into worse housing, into worse neighborhoods. Eviction can actually cause you to lose your job. And for those viewers out there who have been evicted, you know exactly why this is.
It’s such a hard, consuming event. You can make mistakes at work, lose your footing there.
And then there’s health effects, like depression. We have a study that shows that moms who get evicted experience high rates of depression two years later.
So, you add that all up, and I think we have to conclude that eviction isn’t just a condition of poverty, it’s a cause of poverty, too…
Four evictions are filed every minute in America. So the number of evictions filed in 2016 is equivalent to the number of foreclosure starts in 2009 at the height of the crisis. So it’s as if renters are facing foreclosure-level crisis evictions every single year.
And this is not just a problem that’s in New York or San Francisco or Boston—cities we often talk about as being hotbeds of the affordable housing crisis. If you go to Wilmington, Delaware, one in 13 renter families are evicted every year.
If you go to Tucson, Arizona, or Tulsa, Oklahoma, Albuquerque, New Mexico, you see very high eviction rates. And so, it means that the affordable housing crisis is much more deep and spread out than we originally thought it was.