EVICTION IN THE UNITED STATES: IMPLICATIONS FOR CHILD HEALTH
Leifheit, Kathryn Margaret
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Background: An increasing share of families with children in the United States (U.S.) experiences eviction in the context of the Housing Affordability Crisis. Little is known about the effects of eviction on child health and development. Objectives: The overall goal of this dissertation was to understand the effects of eviction and housing insecurity on the health and development of low-income, urban children in the U.S. We characterized children affected by eviction and examine the association of eviction with children’s neighborhood conditions, food security, and obesity status (Aim 1, chapter 2). We then evaluated the association between severe housing insecurity during pregnancy and adverse birth and infant outcomes (Aim 2, chapter 3). Methods: We analyzed data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal cohort of children born in 20 large U.S. cities. In Aim 1, we compared maternal and infant health and sociodemographic characteristics at birth, then characterized associations between eviction and neighborhood poverty and food security at age 5 and obesity at ages 5, 9, and 15. In Aim 2, we estimated associations between severe housing insecurity during pregnancy, birth outcomes (low birth weight/preterm birth, admission to a NICU or stepdown facility, and extended hospitalization after delivery), and infant health (parent-rated health and temperament). Results: Results of the studies indicate that 1) children who experienced eviction in early childhood (ages 0-5) showed signs of poor health and social vulnerability at birth; 2) eviction in early childhood was not associated with living in a high poverty neighborhood, but was associated with food insecurity at age five; 3) Eviction in early childhood was not associated children’s obesity prevalence at ages five, nine, or 15; and 4) Severe housing insecurity during the antenatal period was associated with an increased prevalence of adverse birth and infant outcomes. Conclusions: We found evidence indicating that evictions may be detrimental to children’s health and development. Though eviction prevention is likely to improve health and social justice issue for all people in the United States, it may be especially important to protect children and pregnant mothers from the adverse effects of eviction.