Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban Poverty

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Contributed date

May 16, 2020 - 1:17am

Critical Commentary

This study by Matthew Desmond out of Harvard is a "mixed-methods endeavor that combines a quantitative analysis of eviction records and survey data with a qualitative analysis of ethnographic data gleaned from fieldwork among evicted families and their landlords, this study is among the first to empirically evaluate the relationship between eviction and urban poverty. To do so, it pursues four research questions. First, how prevalent is eviction? Second, where in the city do evictions occur? Third, are women disproportionately affected by eviction and, if so, why? Fourth, what are the consequences of eviction?"

The author also wrote the best selling book "Evicted" which I wanted to post as my artifact but couldn't find the permission to do so. Instead I have posted this journal article as it touches on some of the same research. https://www.evictedbook.com/books/evicted-tr/evicted-hc

Through quantitative analyses of court records and survey data he began "to understand fully the magnitude of eviction in the inner city and to document racial and gender disparities." Through fieldwork, he identified repeated patterns behind the numbers.

"The findings of this study have offered one answer for why low-income families move so much: they are forced to. Determining why poor families move as often as they do is crucial to our understanding of the root causes of social disadvantage and to the development of effective policy interventions. More research dedicated to identifying the underlying mechanisms of residential mobility is sorely needed, as is more work that analyzes if the consequences of a nonvoluntary move are more severe than those accompanying a voluntary one." I am curious as to what part energy poverty leads to nonvoluntary moves and between this article and the book there were some connections.

A final concern in the article was "to do with the yearly cycle of evictions and the survey’s duration. Far from being consistent across months, evictions in Milwaukee follow a fluctuating seasonal pattern. As the year begins, evictions are moderate. The number dips down during February but then begins to climb upward. After peaking in August or September, the monthly count starts to decline."  In the book, on pg 15, Desmond noted that in the winter, tenants stayed current on rent at the expense of the heating bill and then in the summer tried to catch back up with the utilities by "shorting the landlord" so evictions spiked in summer/early fall. 



Desmond, Matthew. “Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban Poverty.” American journal of sociology. 118, no. 1 (July 1, 2012): 88–133.



Cite as

Matthew Desmond, "Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban Poverty", contributed by Roya Haider, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 16 May 2020, accessed 29 November 2022. https://energyrights.info/content/eviction-and-reproduction-urban-poverty