Evictions Associated with Lower Voter Turnout

A new article in the journal Politics & Society, “Eviction and Voter Turnout: The Political Consequences of Housing Instability,” examines the impact of evictions on voter turnout in the 2016 presidential election. The authors, Gillian Slee and Matthew Desmond, find increases in neighborhood residential evictions led to significant decreases in voter turnout, especially in neighborhoods where residential evictions were less common. Their findings suggest evictions had a significant impact on the 2016 election.

The study employed two large administrative datasets: one on evictions from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab and another on registered voters compiled by Labels and Lists. The data covered 82 million court-ordered evictions that occurred across 48 states and the District of Columbia from 2000 to 2016 and 94% of ballots cast in the 2016 election. The researchers aggregated the eviction and voter data to the census tract level to approximate neighborhood eviction and voting rates. They combined the eviction and voting data with tract-level data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to control for demographics, housing conditions, and material disadvantage. The authors controlled for population factors such as poverty, race, gender, education, and age, as well as housing factors like the percentage of residents in group quarters, tenure, vacancies, the percentage of newly built housing units, and general residential instability.   

The study found a correlation between eviction rates and voter turnout. A one percentage point increase in the residential eviction rate was associated with a 0.46 percentage point decline in the voter turnout rate. The strength of the association varied across neighborhoods depending on their eviction rates. In neighborhoods with the highest rates of eviction, a one percentage point increase in the eviction rate correlated with a 0.39 percentage point decline in voter turnout, while a one percentage increase in the eviction rate correlated with a 5.54 percentage point decline in turnout in neighborhoods with the lowest rates of eviction.

The authors further examined how state and local voting laws might impact the relationship between evictions and voter turnout. The strength of the relationship between evictions and voter turnout was twice as strong in states with restrictive voting laws leading up to the 2016 election, while the relationship was statistically insignificant in states that implemented same-day voter registration. The authors suggest efforts to expand voting access have the potential to counter the negative impact of evictions on voter turnout, though they stress more evidence is needed.     

To provide evidence of a causal relationship and not just a correlation between evictions and voter turnout, the researchers employed a procedure known as instrumental variable (IV) analysis. According to their IV model, a one percentage point reduction in residential evictions would have increased voter turnout by 2.73 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election. In six states, election results were decided by less than two percentage points.

Read the study at: https://bit.ly/3nlptWk