An interview I did with Princeton sociologist and MacArthur genius grant winner Matthew Desmond a couple of years ago really stayed with me. He did a deep study of people getting kicked out of their apartments, and there was a story of a family who got evicted because ambulances came too many times for a child with asthma. Desmond’s book “Evicted” focused on Milwaukee, but he’s just released a new set of national data showing evictions around the country are comparable to foreclosures at the height of the financial crisis.
He joined us to discussed the findings, which were published by Princeton’s Eviction Lab. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
David Brancaccio: So in the year 2016, you found that there were nearly a million evictions that year. Give me a sense of scale.
Matthew Desmond: This is the first time we’ve really been able to look at evictions at a national level. And so a million evictions, about 900,000 evictions, that equates to about an estimated 2.3 million people evicted in that year, many of them children. So, how do we get our hands around that number? That’s about 6,300 people a day that are evicted. That’s twice the number of people who die in car accidents every day in America. We heard a lot about the opioid epidemic last year. There were about 63,000 drug overdose deaths from opioids in the U.S., which means there are 36 evictions for every tragic overdose victim that year. This means eviction is an enormous problem. It’s a problem of enormous consequence in the country.
Brancaccio: And that number you’re citing is just official evictions ordered by a judge. Sometimes one just gets evicted by the landlord, right?