Desmond releases first-ever national database of evictions in America

Wednesday, Apr 11, 2018

The Eviction Lab at Princeton University has built the first nationwide database of evictions and has launched it as an open-source resource, available to researchers, citizen organizers, and journalists to use, disseminate, and even augment with new data that they collect.  It is available at https://evictionlab.org.

Leading the lab and overall project is Matthew Desmond, Professor of Sociology and affiliated faculty member in the Kahneman-Treiman Center, whose book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016) won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Carnegie Medal, and PEN / John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. Desmond’s research focuses on poverty in America, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality, using both quantitative and ethnographic methods. 

The Eviction Lab database and interactive website allows anyone to search for data not only on eviction rates down to, in some cases the census block level, but also other demographic features such as racial breakdown, poverty rate, rent levels, and median income.  Desmond and colleagues hope that users of the site will create custom maps, charts, and reports and share facts with their neighbors and elected officials to help shape housing policy.  The possible uses are myriad. As Desmond remarks: "Researchers and journalists can take this information and deepen what we know about the prevalence, causes, and consequences of residential insecurity. Citizen organizers and elected officials can examine trends in their communities to design effective policy solutions. Teachers, business and faith leaders, and healthcare professionals can leverage the data to raise awareness of evictions in their communities and spark conversations about the importance of a stable, affordable home."

While the project is expansive in scope and includes more than 80 million U.S. eviction records fro the year 2000, creators acknowledge that there are limits to the current data.  In some geographies, eviction counts have been underestimated or so unstable that clear figures have not yet emerged.  The site includes a discussion of the collection methodology and an FAQ on how engaged citizens can help build and grow the dataset.

For a look at potential uses for this data and for more on the scope of the project, see the New York Times' UpShot article.

Anne Treisman 1935 - 2018

Psychologist Anne Treisman, 2011 National Medal of Science Laureate