Eviction is a cause—not simply a condition—of poverty, new research suggests. It’s linked to long-term depression, poor health, and high stress in women forced to move from their homes.
A recent study looked at the effects on low-income, urban mothers—a population at high risk for eviction. Mothers who were evicted in the year prior to the study experienced about 20 percent higher levels of material hardship and parenting stress.
One in two mothers who were evicted reported depression, compared with one in four similar mothers who were not evicted. Further, one in five mothers who were evicted reported their child’s health as poor, compared with one in 10 mothers who did not experience eviction.
“The year following eviction is incredibly trying for low-income mothers,” says Rachel Kimbro, associate professor of sociology at Rice University and associate director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research’s Urban Health Program. “Eviction spares neither their material, physical, nor mental well-being, thereby undermining efforts of social programs designed to help them.”
The hardship might lead to additional problems, such as the end of a relationship or having to move to a disadvantaged neighborhood.
“Moreover, because the evictions we observed in our sample occurred at a crucial developmental phase in children’s lives, we expect them to have a significant impact on children’s well-being,” says Kimbro, coauthor of the study published in the journal Social Forces.
Lasting effect on happiness
“In some instances, eviction may not simply drop poor mothers and their children into a dark valley, a trying yet relatively short section along life’s journey; it may fundamentally redirect their way, casting them onto a different, and much more difficult, path,” says coauthor Matthew Desmond, assistant professor of sociology and social studies at Harvard University.
“If evicted mothers experience higher rates of depression several years after their forced removal, as our findings indicate, that suggests eviction has lasting effects on mothers’ happiness and quality of life.”
This could affect the mothers’ relationships with romantic partners, children, kin, and neighbors; could cause them to withdraw from social institutions, which dampens their civic engagement and level of community embeddedness; and could sap their energy and prevent them from seeking or keeping a job or participating fully in their children’s development.
The researchers used longitudinal survey data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (FFCWS), which follows a birth cohort of new parents and their children. Interviews were conducted between 1998 and 2000 and contain information on 3,712 births to unmarried parents and 1,188 births to married parents from 20 US cities.
The survey oversampled unmarried mothers and contains a large sample of minority and disadvantaged women. The data include substantial information on the resources and relationships of parents and their effects on children.
Source: Rice University