Study Finds Renters with Children More Likely to Report Asthma Issues than Homeowners

A study from Urban Institute, The Relationship between Housing and Asthma among School-Age Children, explores connections between housing and childhood asthma using data from the 2015 American Housing Survey (AHS). The study finds that renters with children are more likely than homeowners with children to report asthma triggers, like exposure to smoke, mold, leaks, and roaches or rodents, in their homes and to have at least one child with asthma.   

According to the study, households with at least one asthmatic child were more likely to report the presence of asthma triggers in their homes than households without an asthmatic child. Even when controlling for householder demographics, the age of housing, and household income, the presence of smoke, mold, or leaks was correlated with childhood asthma. 

Renters were more likely than homeowners to reside in homes with at least one asthma trigger and to have a child with asthma. Compared to homeowners, renter households with children were twice as likely to report exposure to smoke or have evidence of cockroaches or rodents. Renters receiving housing assistance were also more likely than other low income renters to live in units with asthma triggers and have a child with asthma. Among just renters, the presence of asthma triggers was not statistically correlated with childhood asthma, but the sample of renters was potentially too small to detect a significant correlation.

Given the study’s findings, the authors recommended areas for action and research, including:

  • Local governments can move away from complaint-based property inspections to proactive housing inspection programs requiring landlords to register their properties and participate in regular inspections. Proactive inspections could help renters who might otherwise be unwilling or unable to report the presence of asthma triggers. Research is needed on the health impacts of proactive inspection programs with regards to asthma.
  • HUD can revise its inspection checklist to include the identification and remediation of key asthma triggers.
  • Smoke-free policies can be implemented in private and assisted housing (e.g. HUD’s “smoking ban”).
  • Awareness campaigns and additional resources targeted to homeowners can help increase awareness of asthma triggers and address them.
  • Future research can examine other factors that influence asthma rates and emergency room visits that are beyond the scope of the 2015 AHS (e.g. environmental and genetic factors).

The Relationship between Housing and Asthma among School-Age Children is available at: