Low-income women evicted more often than men partly because of gender dynamics with landlords

A recent analysis of evictions in Milwaukee shows the gender of a landlord and a tenant influences who is more likely to be evicted:

It’s an all-too-common story. Low-income women are evicted at much higher rates than men. The reasons are varied, including lower wages and children, but one rarely discussed reason is the gender dynamics between largely male landlords and female tenants…

But the interactions between predominantly male landlords and female tenants is also a culprit, and it often turns on gender dynamics. Men who fall behind on rent, for example, often went directly to the landlord. When Jerry was served an eviction notice, he promptly balled up and threw it in the face of his landlord. The two commenced yelling at each other until Jerry stomped back to his trailer.

Meanwhile, Larraine, who had also been served notice, recoiled from conflict. “I couldn’t deal with it. I was terrified by it, just terrified,” she told the researcher. After Jerry calmed down, he returned and offered to work off his rent by cleaning up the trailer park and doing some maintenance work, something men often offer to do, I found. The landlord accepted his offer. The outcome for Larraine was different. After avoiding her landlord, she would eventually come up with the rent, borrowing from her brother. But by that time, her landlord had had enough. He felt that Lorraine had taken advantage of him. In keeping with women’s generally non-confrontational approach, Larraine, like many other women renters facing eviction, engaged in “ducking and dodging” landlords often put it.

This dynamic has long-term implications. An eviction record can make it extremely difficult for them to find housing again. Evictions can ban a person from affordable housing programs. And many landlords will not rent to someone who’s been evicted. As they like to say, “I’ll rent to you as long as you don’t have an eviction or a conviction.” These twinned processes—eviction and conviction—work together to propagate economic disadvantage in the inner city.

This sounds like a confluence of race, class, gender. Being non-white and having a lower income leads to fewer housing opportunities and then gender compounds the particulars of interacting with male landlords. The difficulty in finding decent affordable housing then affects what neighborhoods people can live in, influencing social networks, collective efficacy, exposure to violence and crime, differences in educational systems, and access to economic opportunities.

Desmond’s brief report suggests the best solution is to help avoid evictions:

The most important policy solution, however, would be to ensure that low-income families do not end up in eviction court in the first place. Stopgap measures that provide emergency funds for families in a jam – those who have lost a job, experienced a family death, or suffered a medical emergency – could help thousands stay in their homes…

More fundamentally, making housing more affordable could prevent many evictions.

A tough issue to address in a country that tends to accept residential segregation as well as the prevalence of market forces in the housing industry.

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