Investigations

Each year, an average of 7,500 households are evicted in Jefferson County, a rate that in 2016 was more than two times the national average.

Our findings came from data from Eviction Lab, a research group out of Princeton University which earlier this year released an extensive, multi-year dataset of evictions for much of the United States. Included with that data were statistics about the communities in which these evictions were happening, such as poverty rates, percentages of the population that rent and the race of residents.

These data came at a very local level, down to something called a Census block group. For comparison, several block groups could likely fit within a typical city neighborhood.

We decided to download the data for all of the block groups within the city of Louisville and see what we could find.

Geography Concerns

Census block groups are great, but they aren’t very human-readable: instead of geographic locations, block groups are long strings of numbers that would be meaningless to most people. Using a mapping software called QGIS, we were able to connect block groups to their neighborhoods. While this wasn’t a very precise connection, we were able to get much more precise when we looked at multiple neighborhoods at a time. For example, connecting block groups to the Russell neighborhood was less precise than connecting block groups to western Louisville.

Multiple Years

Because we had multiple years of data, we struggled at first to get a comprehensive picture of evictions in Louisville. We decided to look at both short-term (5 year) and long-term (17 year) averages and percent change over time.

We also wanted to look at how each block group compared to other block groups for each year. This is the map you see included with the story.


For this map, we assigned each block group a “1” if its eviction rate was above average, and a “0” if its eviction rate was at or below average. Once we calculated this for each of the 17 years of data, we added each block group’s numbers.

If a block group had a 17, that meant that the block group had an eviction rate over the average eviction rate for the city of Louisville every year between 2000 and 2016. If the block group had a 0, it meant that it never had an eviction rate above the city average.

Findings

The average eviction rate in Louisville has gone down 32 percentage points, from 6.2 percent of rented households being evicted in 2000 to 4.2 percent of households in 2016. Even in areas where eviction rates are persistently high, we have seen eviction rates decreasing.

But in nearly 25 percent of those areas with persistently high eviction rates, the story is quite the opposite. Our analysis showed that what was already a bad situation is only getting worse.

Contact Alexandra Kanik at akanik@louisvillepublicmedia.org or (502) 814.6508.

Alexandra Kanik brings the numbers to life as the data reporter for WFPL News and the Ohio Valley ReSource.