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How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords

American landlords derive more profit from renters in low-income neighborhoods, researchers Matthew Desmond and Nathan Wilmers find.
A dilapidated apartment complex in the Carrick section of Pittsburgh, which had been shut down by the county health department, in 2014. The Pennsylvania state attorney general filed a lawsuit against the then-landlord, saying he rented unsafe and uninhabitable apartments, many of them to refugees.
A dilapidated apartment complex in the Carrick section of Pittsburgh, which had been shut down by the county health department, in 2014. The Pennsylvania state attorney general filed a lawsuit against the then-landlord, saying he rented unsafe and uninhabitable apartments, many of them to refugees.Keith Srakocic/AP

Do the poor pay more for housing?

That’s the question at the heart, and in the title, of a detailed paper published in the American Journal of Sociology on the actual housing costs paid by Americans in low-income urban neighborhoods. Its two authors, Princeton’s Matthew Desmond—who wrote the award-winning 2016 book Evictedand MIT’s Nathan Wilmers, track the rent burdens and levels of exploitation faced by those living in concentrated poverty. They also uncover the staggeringly high profit margins made by the landlords who own properties in these areas.