Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Mathew Desmond analyzes how eviction causes poverty and ruins the lives of poor Americans.  The author brings out several themes that reflect how housing expenses and evictions increase poverty, yet the concept is so overlooked today. Displacement is not identified as a common problem in America since so much attention is turned to mass incarcerations, crime, and economic crises neglecting the latter. Eviction directly or indirectly relates to poverty and inequality in society. When people are expelled from their homes, they lose their material possessions and get their psychology and health compromised. The essay looks at two themes and how they affect low-income families in society.

Income inequality is one of the issues addressed by the writer. Low-income earners are subjected to difficult decisions to make; they have to decide whether to buy food or pay rent or meet their children’s needs and fail to pay rents. According to Desmond (2016), housing expenses have highly inflated over the past years, making low earning families strain a lot of their cash on rent. Housing has taken a business model where landlords expect profits from tenants, and eviction has become a guarantee of a continuous flow of profits. Poor Americans spend almost 70% of their income on rent, and they are left with very little to cater for other basic needs. When families have so little to spend on their basic needs and lack enough to pay for rent, they experience emotional distress and lower esteem. I can imagine a child that witnesses their household items being thrown out with the parents staring helplessly. It is a nightmare for a child to be separated from neighborhood friends and environment and probably taken to an extremely poor street. Likewise, no parent would desire to have their children experience the pain of losing a home and being homeless.

Evictions also escalate poverty since people are withdrawn from their jobs. Evicted people are forced to find new houses in areas far from where they are employed, and therefore the poverty level increases. Parents also have to cater to new expenses for their children in school when landlords evict them. Housing companies evict people for different reasons, such as failure to pay, property damage, or criminal activities. Whatever the reason for eviction, it leads to adverse effects on the lives of poor people. For instance, landlords refuse to take tenants with previous eviction records as a preventative measure of failure to pay rents. Consequently, people are forced to search for new homes in streets subjected to abject poverty, where they do not consider individuals’ eviction records. Some jobs also refuse to hire people with inadequate housing records, and they increase the misery of low earning people. Eviction is not always a consequence of irresponsibility, but it may be an inevitable scenario due to income disparities. Arleen is an example of a hardworking single mother that faces the risk of eviction despite her commitment. Arleen has to spend 80% of her income on rent, place food at the table, and meet funeral expenses. Arleen is evicted because she cannot afford to pay for the damaged door with her low income. It makes no sense to spend almost all your earning for rent purposes and then starve; many people would choose to forgo paying for a particular period and then pay later. Sadly, some people get evicted for deciding to meet their basic needs instead of paying rents.

The author also highlights racial and ethnic segregation that leads to high eviction rates in America. Poor people cannot afford lawyers to speak on their behalf in eviction, while almost 90% of landlords have attorneys. Landlords take advantage of the tenants’ inability to file a lawsuit when they engage in formal and informal evictions. Many lower-class people do not attend courts since they do not have a voice in the law. In the book, we see Shereena surprised when Arlene turns up in a hearing as it was a rare thing. Housing companies are likely to expel tenants from their homes and face no legal actions since tenants do not have attorneys. The author mentions that the country’s system shapes black people’s lives and condemns them to poverty. Black men are arrested and imprisoned for crimes, while black women are kicked out from their homes when they fail to meet housing expenses (Desmond, 2016). The incarceration of black people who are breadwinners for most families leaves single mom with difficulties maintaining a better life. Black women like Arleen serve as examples of people who suffer due to evictions when their husbands are imprisoned. Landlords also rarely accept to house black people because they believe they are associated with crime and are likely to damage properties.

The income differences and racial discrimination sets margins that favor evictions cases in America. Eviction leaves a permanent mark on families and exposes them to diseases. The high expenses for housing force people to fail to pay for rents or damages, and they are eventually convicted. Evictions make people lose jobs, licenses, and their human dignity. The incarceration of African American men also leads to high eviction rates since women are left to raise families independently. The author suggests that housing should be made a right to make it affordable to every American.



Desmond, M. (2016). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. Crown.

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