Higher Rent Burden and Eviction Threats Associated with Increased Mortality among Renters

An article published in Social Science and Medicine, “The impacts of rent burden and eviction on mortality in the United States, 2000-2019,” finds that both high rent costs relative to household income (rent burden) and the threat of eviction were associated with increased mortality among renters during the study period.

The study population was selected from the long-form 2000 Decennial Census, an extended version of the Decennial Census, which gathers more detailed demographic information than the standard U.S. Census. With this data, the researchers merged mortality data covering the years 2000 to 2019 from the Census Numident file, which contains reliable information drawn from Social Security Administration death records. Lastly, the combined data were linked to 2008-2012 American Community Survey (ACS) data on rent burden and eviction court records from 2000-2016 from the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. The resulting dataset was limited to individuals who were renting and age 22 or older in 2000, resulting in a final sample of 6.6 million individuals. The authors used Cox proportional-hazards models to assess the association between each of the two exposures (rent burden and eviction), with adjustments for demographic characteristics that could skew the results of the models, such as baseline age, race/ethnicity, state, and neighborhood poverty rate.

The researchers found that higher rent burdens in 2000 were associated with increased mortality between 2000 and 2019. Compared to a rent burden of 30% in 2000, a rent burden of 50% was associated with a 9% increase in mortality through 2019, while a rent burden of 70% was associated with a 12% increase in mortality. The association was more prominent among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black men, for whom a rent burden of 70% was associated with a 16% and 14% (respectively) increase in mortality relative to a rent burden of 30%.

Among the study population, 47% of low-income renters experienced an increase in rent burden of 5% or more across the study period. Nearly half of all low-income renters with high rent burden (spending 30% or more of their income on rent) in 2000 experienced an increase in their rent burden of 20 percentage points or more by the 2008-2012 period. Across all individuals who were renting in both 2000 and 2008-2012 (regardless of income level), a 10-percentage point increase in rent burden was associated with an 8% increase in mortality, and a 20-percentage point increase in rent burden was associated with a 16% increase in mortality. The researchers found that the positive association between rent burden and mortality remained consistent even among renters who did not move during the study period, implying that the rise in rent burden was not caused by movement into more costly housing units, but rather by housing costs increases that far outpace wage growth.

In examining the impact of eviction on mortality, the authors classified the study population into three groups: those who had never received an eviction filing, those who received an eviction filing but not an eviction judgment (threatened eviction), and those who received an eviction judgment. Non-Hispanic Black women accounted for the largest share of the latter groups – 29.6% of all renters threated with eviction and 25.6% of renters who received an eviction judgment – but only 7.5% of renters who never received an eviction filing. Across all categories of renters, the threat of eviction was associated with a 19% increase in mortality, while being evicted was associated with a 40% increase in mortality. Among renters considered to be at the highest risk of eviction, an eviction judgement resulted in a 27% increase in mortality.

The article suggests that policy solutions designed to increase access to affordable, accessible rental housing and avoid eviction can also have a positive public health impact. The authors specifically note the importance of rental voucher programs in making a greater share of the rental housing market affordable to renters facing housing instability, as well as the role of eviction prevention and diversion programs in keeping renters safely and affordably housed. Because renters of color are disproportionately affected by high rent burdens and eviction, these programs may also contribute to reducing racial disparities in mortality.

Read the full article at: https://bit.ly/3T1LCcF