How Much Does a Dollar Cost? Understanding Eviction Judgment Amounts in the United States

Lavar Edmonds , Princeton University
Peter Hepburn, University of California, Berkeley
Ashley Gromis, Princeton University
Matthew Desmond, Harvard University

Using a unique data set of court ordered eviction records and neighborhood characteristics for over 400,000 renter households across 19 states in 2014, we conduct the first large-scale analysis of eviction judgment amounts. We present several key findings: a plurality of eviction judgment amounts was for approximately two months of rent; over one-third of tenants incurred judgment amounts less than one month of rent; and the judgment-to-rent ratio increases with increases in the proportion of Black residents and the vacancy rate, and in neighborhoods where the state requires personal service in issuing notice of an eviction seeking a money judgment. Our results suggest that, to alleviate the debt incurred through evictions, policymakers should re-evaluate the role courts and legal infrastructure play in the eviction process and consider expanding emergency assistance options for renters.

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 Presented in Session 31. Wealth and Debt Disparities