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Do Evictions Affect Health-Related Behaviors?

Unhealthy behaviours in urban Illinois communities affected by eviction: A descriptive analysis
Corey Hazekamp, Sana Yousuf, Manorama Khare, Martin MacDowell
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New research shows the current eviction crisis is doing more than displacing renters and creating housing instability—it also has a significant relationship with people’s health. In the past, researchers have established links connecting homeowners’ housing conditions with health outcomes. However, no research has focused on housing and health outcomes among renters. This study examines the relationship between evictions of renter households and health-related behaviors.

The authors investigated health-related behaviors—binge drinking, current smoking, lack of leisure time and physical activity, obesity, and sleeping fewer than seven hours—among adults ages 18 and older in 1,267 census tracts in urban Illinois using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 500 Cities Project database. This database pulls information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Census Bureau 2010 data, and American Community Survey 2013–17 five-year estimates. Eviction filing rates and formal evictions were extracted from the Eviction Lab national database for 2016. Eviction Lab filing rates are used to account for threats to legally evict renters, though an eviction may not ultimately have been carried out.

Using these data, the authors explored the relationship between each behavior and eviction filings and eviction rates, first for all tracts and then for tracts where more than half the households were people of color.

The study acknowledged that people’s race, gender, income, and education all affect health-related behaviors. And research shows households with low incomes, single mothers, and people of color are overrepresented among renters and are disproportionately vulnerable to eviction. Although the study cannot definitively quantify the effects of eviction on individual outcomes, the authors suggest policymakers can use their findings to increase assistance to renters, prevent evictions, and offer stable housing options to people facing financial hardship.

Key findings
  • Both eviction rates and eviction filing rates at the census tract level are significantly correlated with the five health-related behaviors.
  • Urban Illinois census tracts observed in this study with predominately Black and Hispanic households had higher rates of smoking, lack of leisure time or physical activity, obesity, and sleeping fewer than seven hours than other tracts.
  • On average, Black households had the highest instances of the health-related behaviors, with the exception of binge drinking. It should be noted that predominately Black, non-Hispanic households had a significantly higher average eviction filing rate at 6.17, compared with white, non-Hispanic households at 2.08 and Hispanic households at 2.56.
  • Binge drinking was the only indicator to decrease as eviction filing rates and eviction rates increase.
Policy implication
  • Housing subsidy programs such as the Housing Choice Voucher Program need more funding to provide stable housing to the millions of low-income renters who cannot afford market rents.