Stable Poverty: Describing the Characteristics of Low-Eviction Poor Neighborhoods

Peter Hepburn , University of California, Berkeley
Matthew Desmond, Harvard University

This paper analyzes the socio-demographic characteristics and temporal stability of high-poverty American neighborhoods that experience low eviction rates. The presumption within much of urban sociology is that residents of poor neighborhoods experience higher levels of mobility and residential instability than those of non-poor neighborhoods. In analyzing variations in one form of (forced) residential mobility—eviction—across poor neighborhoods, we present evidence that runs contrary to this assumption. Using eviction rate data drawn from a unique longitudinal database of eviction court filings, we are able to demonstrate the existence of a small set of urban tracts that have poverty rates above 20% yet exceedingly low eviction rates. Analysis focus on the characteristics and temporal stability of these eviction patterns. The paper aims to spur more nuanced discussion and analysis of the heterogeneity of urban poverty and, ultimately, the development of policies that better-protect low-income households.

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 Presented in Session 250. Spatial Inequality in the United States