Study Finds Higher Rates of Evictions and Foreclosures in Counties with Predominantly Non-White Households

Researchers at New America issued a report, “Displaced in America: Mapping Housing Loss Across the United States,” finding that counties with predominantly non-white households see higher rates of evictions than those with predominantly White households, and that the percentage of housing cost-burdened renters is positively associated with rates of eviction. The report introduces a National Housing Loss Index, which ranks U.S. counties on their eviction and foreclosure rates and includes case studies from North Carolina, Arizona, and Indiana.

The National Housing Loss Index was constructed using eviction and mortgage foreclosure data between 2014 and 2016. The housing loss rate is the number of evictions and foreclosures as a share of the total number of renters and homeowners with mortgages within each county. Eviction data came from Eviction Lab, while ATTOM Data Solutions provided data on mortgage foreclosures. These data were combined with 2012-2016 American Community Survey (ACS) estimates to analyze characteristics of counties with high housing loss. The index compares rates of housing loss in each county against the national average. A housing loss index score of 1 indicates a county with a housing loss rate equal to the national average, while an index score of 3 indicates a housing loss rate three times the national average.

The authors note that data collection on housing loss is inconsistent and incomplete: mortgage foreclosure data is not reported in 13% of U.S. counties and county equivalents, eviction records are plagued with errors (see Memo, August 3), and some of the most vulnerable housing is informal, outside the legal system (e.g., the makeshift housing in Texas’s colonias and heirs’ property in Black-owned land in the southern United States).

The national average housing loss rate for the 70% of counties with available data was 2%. The states with the highest housing loss rates were Arizona (4%), Nevada (3.9%), Florida (3.8%), Georgia (3.7%), and South Carolina (3.5%). Five of the ten counties with the highest housing loss rates were in Virginia.

Geographies with predominantly non-White households see higher rates of evictions and overall housing loss than those with predominantly White households. The relationship between percentage of non-White households and foreclosures was weaker but also positive. As the percentage of housing cost-burdened households in a county increased, housing loss rates also increased. Counties with higher median rents had higher housing loss rates as well.

In addition to producing the national housing loss index, the report also includes three case studies: Forsyth County, North Carolina; Maricopa County, Arizona; and Marion County, Indiana. In each case study, the authors describe the economic circumstances of the counties, the strength of tenant protections, and comparisons of eviction and foreclosure rates. They find that the census tracts with the highest eviction rates in each county are predominantly non-white. In Forsyth County, 40% of residents in the census tract with the highest eviction rate are Black and over 14% are Latino. In Maricopa County, 68% of residents in the tract with the highest eviction rate are Latino and 13% are Black. In Marion County, 50% of residents in the tract with the highest rate are Black and 23% are Latino. In these case studies, the authors find evidence from informant interviews and analysis of ACS data that low wages, an affordable housing shortage, and insufficient legal protections contribute to higher housing loss rates.

The report recommends establishment of a national database on evictions, improved foreclosure tracking databases, a minimum-wage hike, an expanded Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, an infusion of funds into the national Housing Trust Fund, and expanded housing choice vouchers.

The full report is at: