A new survey conducted by ApartmentList.com recently found that Americans, despite historically low unemployment levels and surging stock indices which would both seem to suggest that ‘everything is awesome’, are having a very difficult time making ends meet. Per the survey, some 20% of renters admit they were unable to make their monthly payments on time at least once over the preceding three months with the results being even worse among minorities and those lacking a college degree.
- Analyzing data from Apartment List users, we find that nearly one in five renters were unable to pay their rent in full for at least one of the past three months. We estimate that 3.7 million American renters have experienced an eviction.
- Evictions disproportionately impact the most vulnerable members of our society. Renters without a college education are more than twice as likely to face eviction as those with a four-year degree.
- Additionally, we find that black households face the highest rates of eviction, even when controlling for education and income. Perhaps most troublingly, households with children are twice as likely to face an eviction threat, regardless of marital status.
- The impacts of eviction are severe and long-lasting. Evictions are a leading cause of homelessness, and research has tied eviction to poor health outcomes in both adults and children. These effects are persistent, and experiencing an eviction makes it difficult to get back on one’s feet.
- Performing a metro-level analysis, we find that evictions are most common in metros hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and in those experiencing high rates of poverty. Perhaps counterintuitively, expensive coastal metros have comparatively low rates of eviction, in part because strong job markets with high median wages offset expensive rents in those areas.
As ApartmentList notes, some 3.7 million Americans, of roughly 118 million total renters, have experienced an eviction at some point in their life. Meanwhile, “rent insecurity” is even more prevalent with nearly 30% of folks making less than $30,000 per year saying they have difficultly making monthly rent payments.
3.7 million Americans have experienced eviction, with rental insecurity affecting nearly one in five.
Our Apartment List estimates show that 3.3 percent of renters have experienced an eviction at some point in the past, and 2.4 percent were evicted from their most recent residence. With an estimated 118 million renters in the U.S. today, we estimate that 3.7 million Americans have been affected by eviction at some point. If we assume that some share respondents fail to report informal evictions, this estimate is most likely understated.
While experiencing eviction is a worst-case scenario with dire effects, a much larger share of renters still struggle with some form of rental insecurity. Our analysis shows that 18 percent of respondents had difficulty paying all or part of their rent within the past three months. The issue is particularly acute for low-income renters, 27.5 percent of whom were recently unable to pay their full rent.
Renters with just a high school diploma are more than three times as likely to have faced an eviction threat in the past year than those with a Bachelor’s degree.
Of those who did not attend college, 4.1 percent cited an eviction as the reason for their last move, compared to just 1.9 percent of those with at least some college education. This trend points to a broader issue of the housing market leaving behind less educated Americans. A recent Apartment List study showed that the gap in homeownership rates between high school and college graduates widened from 1.6 percent in 1980 to 14.9 percent in 2015.
A similar trend holds when broken down by income. Of those earning less than $30,000 per year, 11 percent faced an eviction threat in the past year, and 3.4 percent were evicted from their previous residence. In contrast, for those earning more than $60,000 per year, these figures are 3.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, households with children were found to be twice as likely to face an eviction threat, regardless of marital status.
Single parent households are at the highest risk, with 30.1 percent reporting difficulty paying rent within the past three months. However, married couples with children do not fare much better, with 27.2 percent struggling to pay rent. For those without children, the rates are 14.7 percent for single respondents and 13.3 percent of married respondents. Our findings are consistent with previous research showing that, among tenants who appear in eviction court, those with children are significantly more likely to be evicted.
This result points to the fact the child care represents an essential but often overwhelming expense for many families, even those with both parents in the house. Analysis from Care.com shows that average daycare costs for toddlers range from $8,043 to $18,815 per year. Furthermore, one-third of families surveyed reported that childcare costs take up 20 percent or more of their household income.
Not surprisingly, evictions were found to be most prevalent in metro areas where poverty rates are the highest.
Of the 50 largest metros in the nation, evictions are most prevalent in Memphis, with 6.1 percent of users reporting a prior eviction. Most of the metros with the highest eviction rates are located in the South and Midwest and include Atlanta, Indianapolis and Dallas. We find that the factors most strongly correlated with eviction rates include (1) the rate of foreclosures from 2007 to 2008, during the height of the foreclosure crisis, and (2) current poverty rates.
Memphis, for example, has the highest share of its population living in poverty at 19.4 percent, and it also has the highest eviction rate. In metros with high poverty rates, many households may qualify for assistance through programs such as Section 8, but, unfortunately, only a small share of those eligible for such benefits actually receive them, leaving the majority of low-income households struggling to pay rent.
Las Vegas had the second highest foreclosure rate from 2007 to 2008 at 9.2 percent and now has the sixth-highest eviction rate at 5.5 percent. This correlation suggests that many of the areas hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis have had a difficult time recovering. Despite lower housing costs, renters in these areas — some of whom are likely former owners who had their homes foreclosed upon — face a lack of opportunity that makes it difficult for them to pay their rent.
Of course, with rental rates steadily climbing since the great recession, in spite of stagnant wages, it’s hardly surprising that the Federal Reserve Bank’s controlled “recovery” hasn’t helped all Americans equally.