|A new study shows that the implementation of a federal eviction and utility shutoff moratorium at the beginning of March 2020 could have prevented 1.2 million infections and 164,000 deaths in the U.S. The study by Duke University economists was published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Researchers controlled for factors including international travel, health, and housing insecurity, and looked across 3,000+ counties. In part, the paper confirms what we already know about the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on Black, Latinx, and Native people, along with renters and economically precarious groups.
More interestingly, their findings demonstrate the significance of protections against housing precarity (the eviction moratorium in particular) as among the most powerful public health interventions at our disposal. Had eviction and utility shutoff moratoria been instated at the outset of the study period, infection rates would have been 23% lower, with eviction moratoria alone contributing to around 14% of that decrease. In terms of deaths, the moratoria as implemented reduced the COVID death rate by 18.4%, but if there had been a uniform implementation across all counties from the beginning of the study period, deaths would have decreased by a whopping 40% relative to a world with no policies implemented.