Poor Black Women Are Evicted at Alarming Rates, Setting Off a Chain of Hardship

Approximately 16 households are evicted in Milwaukee every day. Who are they, and what is driving these numbers? To answer that question, Matthew Desmond of Harvard University analyzed 29,960 eviction records, surveyed 251 people at eviction court, and followed 11 families through the course of their evictions. His analysis, published in the American Journal of Sociology, found that poor black women in Milwaukee are being evicted from their homes at rates far exceeding their share of the population– largely due to low wages, the presence of children in the home, and conflict avoidance.

In addition to startling rates of black women being evicted, eviction is much more common in poor black neighborhoods than poor white ones. In high-poverty black neighborhoods, one male renter in 33 and one woman in 17 is evicted; in high-poverty white neighborhoods, the ratio is 1:134 for men and 1:150 for women.

Major findings:

  • 1 in 14 renter-occupied households are evicted through Milwaukee courts each year.
  • Black women represent 9.6% of Milwaukee’s renter population but account for 30 percent of evictions.
  • Severe housing cost burden is a major factor in evictions. Most Milwaukee households with eviction hearings paid more than 1/2 of income on rent. A third paid at least 80% of income on rent.
  • A third of households in Milwaukee’s eviction court were women raising children alone.
Publication Date: 
MacArthur Foundation
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, USA