Eviction Moratoriums Improved Food Security and Decreased Mental Stress during Pandemic

A new study, “COVID-19 Rental Eviction Moratoria and Household Well-Being,” investigates the impact of eviction moratoriums on household outcomes including food security, mental health, and spending. The authors find that eviction moratoriums redirected spending to more immediate needs, such as groceries. Moratoriums also reduced food insecurity and mental stress, particularly among Black households. This paper adds to the growing field of research documenting the positive impacts of eviction moratoriums amid COVID-19 (see Memo, 12/7).

The researchers use a dataset of state- and county-level eviction moratoriums to compare well-being outcomes for places that had eviction moratoriums and places that did not. The study period lasted from March to August 2020, ending before the CDC’s national eviction moratorium provided protections for most renters. The researchers used a Federal Reserve dataset and the Opportunity Insight Economic Tracker to assess consumer spending and consumption. The researchers use the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and Google’s Search Volume Index to assess food security and mental health outcomes.

Comparing outcomes in places that did and did not have eviction moratoriums, the researchers examined the effects of moratoriums on the share of households that report sometimes or often not having enough food to eat in the prior 7 days. The effect of moratoriums on food insecurity was not significant for all households, but the effect was significant among Black households. Each additional week of eviction moratoriums was associated with a 2% decline in the number of Black households reporting food insecurity. The researchers also examined the number of households that conducted a Google search for “Food Stamps” and “Food Banks Near Me” to corroborate this finding. Moratoriums were associated with a reduction in searches for these specific terms.

The research also examined the effect of moratoriums on mental health outcomes, specifically the share of households who report frequent feelings of being “nervous, anxious, or on edge,” “not being able to stop or control worrying,” and “feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.” Moratoriums reduced overall mental stress among Black households. Each additional week of an eviction moratoriums was associated with a 1.9% decline in feeling anxious and a 1.6% decline in “feeling down”.

Finally, this research found that eviction moratoriums were associated with an annual .9% increase in grocery spending and 1% increase in food service spending. These findings suggest that eviction moratoriums may have helped households direct their spending toward more immediate needs, such as groceries, resulting in decreased food insecurity. Despite these positive findings, many renters still owe back-rent and may be at risk of eviction once the federal eviction moratorium ends. While moratoriums provided some relief amid widespread unemployment and financial hardship, this research also underlines the importance of comprehensive rental assistance.

The report can be found at: https://bit.ly/39xbqGd