The Effect of State and Local Housing Policies on County-Level Eviction Rates in the United States, 2004-2016
60 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2020 Last revised: 27 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 9, 2020
Housing instability is a constant fact of life for many people in the United States – a fact which is made more urgent and salient during periods of economic disruption such as that caused by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. A relatively new line of research has illuminated the degree to which housing instability, in the form of eviction, is a substantial contributor to health risks, such as “deaths of despair” from alcohol or drug-related accidental poisonings. While eviction is a persistent threat in the U.S., there is almost no research available to guide decision makers about which policies are more or less effective at lowering eviction rates. We provide a theoretical framework of the eviction process highlighting the role that policy might be expected to play in determining local eviction rates. We test this theory using data on evictions for nearly all U.S. counties from 2004-2016 with a panel of state-level landlord-tenant laws and a panel of local housing-specific investments by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We find strong agreement between the theoretical predictions and empirical net effects for nearly all policies studied, and discuss how states and localities may better use combinations of policies to achieving lower eviction rates.
Keywords: eviction, public policy
JEL Classification: O18, K25, R38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation