Evicted men and child with belongings on street. New York City, 1910s.
Evicted men and child with belongings on street. New York City, 1910s.

Eviction in the United States refers to the removal of tenants from the location in which they are residing.[1] Within the United States, eviction rates vary heavily by locality.[2] However, historically, there have been trends in domestic eviction patterns during certain time periods such as during the Great Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Landlord-initiated expulsion of tenants is not officially tracked or monitored by the Federal government, and has historically not been subject to comprehensive analysis. The 2016 publication of the book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond raised awareness of the issue. A database created by Desmond found that landlords had been granted eviction notices for one in 50 renter households in analyzed regions. This rate only counts evictions that engage the legal process, as many evictions are informally conducted between landlords and renters, it likely undercounts actual evictions.[3]


19th Century

The Trail of Tears

See main article: Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears refers to the mass eviction of around 100,000 American Indians from their homelands, which stretched across Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. The majority of evictions occurred after the passage of the United States Indian Removal Act of 1830.[4]

In 1832, the supreme court ruled on the case Worcester v. Georgia, stipulating that the evacuation of the American Indian tribes was unconstitutional. However, because the president at the time, Andrew Jackson, did not agree with the ruling, it was not enforced. The evacuation of natives in the southern states continued.[5]

In 1834, the Treaty of New Echota was passed. This required the Cherokee tribe to move to Oklahoma within two years for a compensation of five million dollars. However, when many Cherokees remained in 1838, they were forcibly removed by the military with deaths totaling over 4,000 people.[5]

20th Century

The Great Depression

See main article: Great Depression in the United States

During the Great Depression, eviction rates increased significantly due to high unemployment rates.[6] In 1933, U.S. unemployment rates reached an all time high of 24.9%.the U.S.. [7]

These evictions led to the Great Rent Strike War of 1932. During the strike, which started in The Bronx, tenants withheld their rent while demanding decreases in rent and evictions. Tenants who did not pay were evicted, and police officers forced residents out of their apartments. Tenants violently fought police officers, leading to arrests. At first, the strikes were unsuccessful because landlords were legally supported. Eventually, strikes spread across the country and led to decreases in rent and eviction rates.[8]

One result of housing issues that occurred during the Great Depression was the passage of the Housing Act of 1937, often referred to as the Wagner-Steagall Act. This act established public housing in the United States.[9] Within the first 4 years of its establishment, 170,000 housing units were created.[10]

Japanese American internment during WWII

See main article: Internment of Japanese Americans

During World War II, mass evictions of Japanese Americans on the West Coast occurred due to perceived threats of national security after the Pearl Harbor bombings.[11] Evictions began in early 1942 after the inaction of Executive Order 9066 by president Franklin Roosevelt.[12] Within 6 months, 112,000 people were sent to internment camps. Those who were forced into these internment camps were slowly released after the end of the war in 1945.[11] The last internment camp did not close until nine months after the end of the war. In 1948, Congress passed a law that would reimburse Japanese Americans for their material losses; however, only ten cents of every dollar was repaid. Finally, in 1988, President Reagan signs a bill which paid each survivor of internment camps $20,000.[12]

21st Century

Great Recession

See main article: Great Recession

During the recession of 2008, eviction rates rose significantly due to property foreclosures. In the early months of the recession, renters were evicted with little notice due to landlords foreclosing on properties. However, in May of 2009, the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act was passed. This law required “new owners to provide at least 90 days notice to vacate and to honor the terms of any existing leases.” [13]

COVID-19 pandemic

See also: COVID-19 eviction moratoriums in the United States

During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, mass job loss and unemployment led to fears of mass evictions as tenants became unable to pay rent. An analysis by the Aspen Institute indicated between 19 and 23 million, or 20 percent of renters, are at risk for eviction by the end of September, 2020;[14] a separate July 2021 United States Census Bureau survey projects 7 million households unable to pay rent and at risk of eviction, with a potential 3 million eviction filings in the next two months.[15]

In response, the federal CARES Act included an eviction moratorium for federally-backed rental properties; however, this expired on July 24, 2020,[16] and no enforcement mechanism was provided.[17] States and cities also passed a variety of temporary eviction moratoriums.[18][19][20] As these moratoriums expired over the course of 2020, there were fears of a massive wave of evictions; by mid-June 2020, over 40% of states offered renters no protections.[21]

Nevertheless, on September 4, 2020, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Agency Order known as Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions To Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19.[22] This agency order will be effective from September 4 to December 31 of 2020, during which time, “a landlord, owner of a residential property, or another person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to  which the order applies.” [22]

Under The Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions To Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19, a covered person is a tenant that has given their landlord the legal right to evict them, but has declared, under penalty of perjury, that: available housing assistance has been pursued; homeless status is likely after the eviction; the tenant is making their best efforts to pay at least part of the rent, there was a substantial household income loss that prevents the tenant from paying rent; and the tenant will not earn more than $99,000 USD in annual income for the taxable year of 2020, or will not be required to report incomes in 2019, or, under the CARES Act received an Economic Impact Payment.[23] This eviction moratorium was allowed to expire on July 31, 2021.[24][25]

However, that does not mean that the individual obligations to comply with the agreements on the tenancy contract are relieved. The order does not eliminate individual obligations to make housing payments, pay the rent, or add interest, if applicable.[26] Moreover, tenants can still be evicted for other reasons apart from not complying with the timely payment. For instance, evictions due to criminal activity, violation of building codes, and threats to other residents' safety are allowed under the order.[26]

In addition, the agency order will not apply in areas that already have an eviction moratorium. For example, the Governor of California stated that the Temporary Halt will not apply in the state because they have established a stronger protection.[27] Furthermore, the order allows states to enact other actions aimed to provide even further assistance to tenants, which implies that tenants not covered by the federal order, could be covered by some state protection.[28]

In this way, there are states and cities that issued their own eviction moratoriums.[29] For instance, the state of Massachusetts issued the "Bill providing temporary protections for renters and home owners during the COVID-19 emergency". However, the moratorium waived on October 17, 2020. Hence, the CDC order will take effect.[30]

On August 3, 2021, the CDC issued a new eviction moratorium in areas with substantial and high transmission of COVID-19.[31][32][33] On August 26, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the federal eviction moratorium put in place by U.S. President Joe Biden and ruled that the CDC had exceeded its authority by enforcing it.[34][35][36]


Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2015. United States.
Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2015. United States.

Most evictions in the United States occur because the tenant cannot or will not pay rent. Landlords can also expel tenants for breaking the law, damaging property, sub-leasing, or causing a disturbance. In most American municipalities, tenants who haven't violated their lease can be expelled, in what is known as "no-fault evictions."[37]

Most renting families under the poverty line spend more than 50% of their income on rent, with one in four such families spending over 70% of their income on rent and utilities. About one in four low-income renters receives housing assistance.[37] Eviction rates are higher in communities with multiple aggravating factors, including high levels of poverty. These include local laws that give advantage to landowners and a lack of available affordable housing that would increase market pressures to keep rents low.[3]

When housing pressures are extreme, even middle-class and working-class renters are evicted by landlords eager to capitalize on the rising market rates, such as in San Francisco during the various tech booms. In such circumstances, landlords may seize upon minor violations that were previously tolerated, such as keeping a small pet or storing a bicycle in the hallway, to evict renters. The situation in California is aggravated by the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict tenants and immediately sell the vacant apartments as condominiums.[38]

Disproportionately impacted evictees

According to Deena Greenberg, Carl Gershenson, and Matthew Desmond, "between 2004 and 2014, more than 300,000 housing discrimination complaints were filed."[39]

Ethnic and racial minorities

In a study published in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law review, researchers investigated the relationship between Hispanic origin and eviction in Milwaukee. These researchers discovered a strong correlation between the racial composition Hispanic residents are living in and their likelihood of eviction. In neighborhoods with a population that is two-thirds white, approximately 80% of landlords will be white. In these same neighborhoods, which experience an eviction rate of 25%, Hispanic residents experience eviction rates upwards of 35%. Due to the elimination of missed rental payments and income level through controls, this study suggests discrimination within the housing market in predominantly white neighborhoods.[39]

In another study which took place in Chicago, one fourteenth of black tenants are evicted annually.[40] This 7.1% eviction rate contrasts significantly with Chicago's average eviction rate of 3.9%.[41] Matthew Desmond, the author of this study, goes on to compare the eviction of black women to the incarceration of black men.[40] In comparison to white women, black women are 5 times more likely to be evicted.[42]

Families with children

According to Matthew Desmond, renters with children have an eviction rate three times higher than the average.[42] This is because renters believe that children have the potential to be problematic. By the age of 15, approximately 15% of children experience eviction. This has a negative impact on the behavioral development, education, and health of children.[43]


Based on studies done in major United States cities, women are more likely to face eviction than men. Between 2003 and 2007, 60.6% of those evicted in Milwaukee were women, and in Chicago, 62% of people appearing in eviction court were female. This is likely because women are more likely to be impoverished in America, and therefore have less access to legal resources. [39] Additionally, based on a study by Richard Tessler, Robert Rosenheck, and Gail Gamache, when homeless men and women were asked why they were homeless, women reported eviction nearly twice as much as men.[44]



Protesters linking arms to prevent San Francisco Sheriffs' deputies from evicting elderly tenants. August 4, 1977
Protesters linking arms to prevent San Francisco Sheriffs' deputies from evicting elderly tenants. August 4, 1977

Eviction is a cause of poverty, as well as a result of it. The loss of home often results in the loss of community connections, as well as children being forced into a new school. Possessions are routinely lost, as they are placed outside on the sidewalk or placed in storage that can only be accessed by paying a fee. A legal eviction typically goes on the permanent record of the border, resulting in automatic rejection by other landlords or housing authorities.[37] Experiencing eviction disqualifies an individual from federal housing subsidies.[43]

Mental health

Multiple studies done on mental health and housing have shown a correlation between housing insecurity and mental health issues. The threat of eviction can have an impact on stress levels, anxiety, and depression.[45] The Michigan Recession and Recovery Study looked at a group of adults with different housing insecurities, one of which was having been evicted in the past 12 months. The study found that 13.9% of these people suffered from major or minor depression, and that 33.8% experienced an anxiety attack in the last 4 weeks.[46] Additionally, across the 27 states that participate in the National Violent Death Reporting system, in 2015, 3.8% of those who committed suicide with known circumstances had recently experienced eviction.[47]

Physical Health

One physical health impact that eviction has on tenants evicted is an increased spread and contraction of COVID-19. This is because of actions tenants take after being evicted. When evicted, residents must find other places to live, such as a homeless shelter or a friend's house. According to the CDC, "adding as few as two new members to a household can as much as double the risk of illness." Additionally, when people are living in the same household, it is much harder to adhere to social distancing protocols. The mental health consequences of eviction also weaken the immune system, increasing transmission.[45]

Eviction rates also creates a higher risk for one to contract sexually transmitted infections. There is a variety of factors that increase this risk for those evicted. Often times those evicted don't have access to STI protection to condoms. Additionally, those evicted could participate in sexual activity for resources. Mental health also plays a role in the increased transmission of STIs, as sexual activity has been seen to be used as a coping mechanism for the associated stress with eviction. Eviction also has an impact on monogamous relationships, which can lead to increased partners and an increased risk for STIs.[48]

Rates and locations

There is no government reporting system on eviction, so variance by location and time were, at best, little understood and, at worst, invisible. This began to change with the implementation of Princeton University's Eviction Lab which published the results of an analysis of 900,000 eviction notices that occurred in 2016.[3]

Steel screen installed over windows as an evicted tenant's property is removed. Minneapolis, MN
Steel screen installed over windows as an evicted tenant's property is removed. Minneapolis, MN
A house in Minneapolis is boarded up in 2009 after the tenant was evicted
A house in Minneapolis is boarded up in 2009 after the tenant was evicted
Striking workers in Pittsburgh being evicted, 1909
Striking workers in Pittsburgh being evicted, 1909
Large U.S. cities with highest eviction rates, 2016[2]
Rank City Eviction Rate
1 North Charleston, South Carolina 16.5%
2 Richmond, Virginia 11.44%
3 Hampton, Virginia 10.49%
4 Newport News, Virginia 10.23%
5 Jackson, Mississippi 8.75%
6 Norfolk, Virginia 8.65%
7 Greensboro, North Carolina 8.41%
8 Columbia, South Carolina 8.22%
9 Warren, Michigan 8.08%
10 Chesapeake, Virginia 7.9%

Eviction laws and policies

Eviction laws in the United States vary by jurisdiction, and are based on state statute and common law.[49] Additionally, landlord-tenant law at the state level is often based on the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant code or the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, known as URLTA.[50]

See also


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  3. ^ a b c Badger, Emily; Bui, Quoctrung (2018-04-07). "In 83 Million Eviction Records,a Sweeping and Intimate New Look at Housing in America". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  4. ^ Thornton, Russell (1984). "Cherokee Population Losses during the Trail of Tears: A New Perspective and a New Estimate". Ethnohistory. 31 (4): 289–300. doi:10.2307/482714. ISSN 0014-1801. JSTOR 482714. PMID 11616951.
  5. ^ a b Sundquist, Matthew L. (2010). "Worcester V. Georgia: A Breakdown in the Separation of Powers". American Indian Law Review. 35 (1): 239–255. ISSN 0094-002X. JSTOR 41148666.
  6. ^ Abbott, Edith; Kiesling, Katherine (1935). "Evictions during the Chicago Rent Moratorium Established by the Relief Agencies, 1931-33". Social Service Review. 9 (1): 34–57. doi:10.1086/631571. ISSN 0037-7961. JSTOR 30010392. S2CID 144058836.
  7. ^ U.S, Full Bio Follow Linkedin Kimberly Amadeo is an expert on; Economies, World; investing; Analysis, With Over 20 Years of Experience in Economic; Amadeo, business strategy She is the President of the economic website World Money Watch Read The Balance's editorial policies Kimberly. "Compare Today's Unemployment with the Past". The Balance. Retrieved 2021-04-25.
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