For Children & Mothers, Eviction Has Long-term Consequences

For Children & Mothers, Eviction Has Long-term Consequences
Matthew Desmond, Rachel Tolbert Kimbro
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As millions of families in the United States experience eviction, little research exists of the impact of eviction on their lives. In a study published by Social Forces, researchers analyzed the material, mental and physical impacts of eviction. The researchers centered their study on low-income urban mothers, a group with the highest likelihood of eviction. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), they uncovered a strong relationship between recent evictions and material hardship, and that eviction has long-term negative consequences for mothers’ economic well-being and mental health.

FFCWS is a nationally-representative longitudinal survey of parents with young children conducted in four waves (birth, year 1, year 3, and year 5). Each wave inquired about eviction from the home or apartment in the prior year. The survey, which oversampled unmarried mothers, had 2,676 mothers who were renting at baseline and still in they study at year 5. Mothers who exited the survey before the fourth wave were more likely to be Hispanic, less likely to be black, no more likely to have experienced eviction by year 3, and otherwise similar to the mothers who remained in the study.

Major findings include:

  • Seven percent of the sample experienced an eviction by the time their child was age 5. Five percent had been evicted when their child was age 3 or younger. A small number of families (n=23) experienced more than one eviction during the child's first five years.
  • Mothers who were evicted in the previous year experienced higher levels of material hardship and parenting stress, leading to an increased likelihood of depression.
  • Evicted mothers are more than twice as likely to report that their children to be in poor health, compared with mothers who have not experienced eviction.
  • The year following its occurrence, eviction undermines the efforts of social assistance programs by negatively affecting mothers' material, physical and mental well-being.
  • Evidence was uncovered that at least two years after their eviction, mothers still experienced significantly higher rates of material hardship and depression than their peers.
  • Mothers have higher rates of depression even several years after eviction, suggesting that eviction has a lasting effect on mothers’ happiness and quality of life.
  • By preventing the health impacts found in this study, eviction prevention assistance can reduce healthcare costs for at-risk families.