The Systemic Eviction of Black Women

It has been well-documented that the large-scale incarceration of Black men has become a scourge destroying Black families and communities all across the U.S. But for Black women, eviction has quietly become an extremely destructive force also wreaking havoc on Black families and Black communities. And after a woman is evicted once, it can follow her forever — just like a conviction. Landlords often say to prospective tenants, “I’ll rent to you as long as you don’t have an eviction or a conviction.” Together, they represent twin terrors leading to long-term damage to Black women and Black men. This list borrows heavily from a comprehensive study on the city of Milwaukee by the McArthur Foundation, which has been the seminal work in the field used by scholars and housing advocates to show for the first time the differential impact evictions have on men and women, Black and white Americans.

Black Women Most Likely to Be Evicted

In high-poverty Black neighborhoods, one male renter in 33 and one woman in 17 is evicted, according to a study released last year by the McArthur Foundation. In high-poverty white neighborhoods, in contrast, the ratio is 134:1 for men and 150:1 for women. Women from Black neighborhoods represented only 9.6 percent of the population, but they accounted for 30 percent of the evictions in Milwaukee, where McArthur researchers conducted a study. However startling, these statistics account only for court-ordered evictions. They do not include “informal” evictions, like using strong-arm tactics or paying unwanted tenants to move, housing condemnations, or landlord foreclosures.

Gender Plays a Role in Dealing with Male Landlords

As the McArthur Foundation fieldwork shows, the interaction between predominantly male landlords and female tenants is also a culprit and often turns on gender dynamics. Men who fell behind in rent, for example, often went directly to the landlord. Many women facing eviction instead took the nonconfrontational approach, what the landlords called engaging in “ducking and dodging.”

Children Are a Red Flag

Children can pose a challenge to single mothers beyond the cost of needing larger rental units to accommodate them. Children can result in landlords coming under increased state scrutiny. Children might test positive for lead poisoning, for example, and the Environmental Protection Agency will step in. Child protective services may be alerted if the home is unsafe or unsanitary. Too many children crowded into an apartment also can result in damage to the apartments.

To Avoid Upsetting the Landlord, Women Don’t Ask for Help

Calls to the police to report domestic violence could provoke the ire of landlords or lead to eviction if a male abuser was not on the lease. Thus, women often choose between reporting unsafe or unhealthy conditions and facing eviction, or keeping quiet about their situations and living in deteriorated housing or with abusive partners, according to the McArthur study.

Eviction Can Mean Losing All Their Possessions

Tenants who are evicted often lose not only their homes but their possessions as well, stripping them of the few assets they had. Once evicted, tenants often find themselves forced to move from one undesirable situation to another.

Not Enough Housing Assistance

Despite the fact that many are one paycheck away from not making the rent, only one in four households that qualifies for housing assistance receive it, the McArthur Foundation said. Even as demand is rising, the supply of affordable units is dwindling — and rents are rising. In 2012, more than half of all renters (21 million) were paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent — the greatest number of “cost-burdened” renters on record, according to a 2013 housing report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Housing Takes Brutal Toll on Family Living Expenses

The McArthur Foundation analyzed 29,960 eviction records in Milwaukee County from Jan. 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2007, and conducted 251 on-site surveys at Milwaukee’s eviction court in January and February 2011. Among the Foundation’s findings: The eviction court survey population was predominantly Black (74 percent) and poor; the majority paid at least 50 percent of their incomes for rent; astoundingly, one-third devoted more than 80 percent of their incomes for rent. Only 6 percent received housing assistance.