Gauging the Threat of Evictions 

Gauging the Threat of Evictions 

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A couple weeks back, we noted the loss of the valuable Household Pulse Survey, authorized by Congress for the Census Bureau to measure, in detail, household conditions during the pandemic. The survey was funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and that funding lapsed at the end of July. We are happy to report that, after a six-week hiatus, the survey is back!

Turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought it was valuable. The Census Bureau requested funding from the Office of Management and Budget, and it was finally approved. Surveys like this are valuable for a number of reasons. First, traditional government data is a little too slow and laggy to give us a good sense of economic conditions on the ground today, especially given the fast-moving nature of the current recession. The Household Pulse Survey is released weekly.

But most importantly, this is a very targeted survey, asking questions such as “Has your spending been impacted by your fear of public safety?” You just can’t find that kind of information anywhere else.

So let’s dig into the new and expanded (!) release from the Census Bureau. Buckle up folks, this is going to be a chartapalooza.

One of the newly added questions to the survey helps answer a question that is on many people’s minds: What is happening with evictions now that moratoriums are starting to lapse? The chart below tracks respondents’ self-diagnosed eviction likelihood across states, and only measures those who said they were “very likely” to be evicted in the next two months.

We should caveat that we don’t have a baseline (what would this chart have looked like last year at this time?) and we don’t know how volatile this might be from week to week, but there are 14 states where 1 in 5 respondents (or more!) think it’s very likely they will be evicted in the next two months! And it’s not like we have a tremendously small sample size problem here: There were roughly 16,000 renters from Maine surveyed, with 6,800 responding that they are very likely to be evicted. The Eviction Lab, a Princeton University project, provides great detail on policies enacted by state , and lo and behold, 16 of the 17 states furthest to the right in the chart above grade out as providing little to no renter protections (receiving either zero or half of one star out of five). The one exception is Arizona, which suffers from elevated employment and a recent virus outbreak.

The left side, meanwhile, is populated by places that have either regained a significant share of jobs (Utah, Arkansas, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Alabama and, to a lesser extent, Vermont and Montana) or that grade highly in the Eviction Lab’s methodology for measuring efforts to keep them in their homes (D.C., Illinois, Washington, Connecticut and to a lesser extent, Vermont, Hawaii and New Jersey).

Sticking with the eviction-related questions, the chart below breaks out survey respondent answers based on their education level. Much like jobs lost during the lockdown, the eviction risk is most heavily skewed towards the least-educated.