Estimating the National Prevalence of Eviction Using Millions of Public Court Records

Ashley Gromis , Princeton University
James Hendrickson, Princeton University
Lavar Edmonds, Princeton University
Lillian Leung, Princeton University
Adam Porton, Princeton University
Matthew Desmond, Harvard University

Eviction from rental housing is a cause of poverty and contributes to inequality in communities across the United States. Yet, there are no reliable national estimates of the number of households that experience eviction each year. We compiled more than 82 million public court records to create a novel data source to estimate the prevalence of eviction. We find that more than 3 million eviction cases were filed nationwide in 2016. The prevalence of eviction cases varies significantly across states and, surprisingly, many of the states with the highest rates of eviction cases are located in the Southeast. We also find that variation in eviction rates illuminates how landlords leverage the court system to collect rent money in some areas. This use of large-scale, administrative data allows us to examine a population that was previously invisible and identify trends across space that contribute to our understanding of eviction locally.

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 Presented in Session 100. Using Big Data in Population Research