Dissertation

Grounds for Eviction: Race, Mobility, and Policing in the Antelope Valley” uses a case of racial integration prompted by federal housing policy to explore how a predominantly white community uses policing to reassert racial inequality and segregation. It responds to broad questions arising from scholarship on residential mobility that asks why federal programs aimed at promoting mobility as a solution to poverty have not been as successful for adult movers as expected, while also responding to calls for scholarship on Black suburban experiences and the dynamics of policing in suburbs. My dissertation consists of three empirical projects, one using quantitative methods and the other two based on qualitative interviews with local residents and voucher renters in the Antelope Valley.

First, I contextualize this case by showing how the 2008 foreclosure crisis shaped the geography of voucher usage in Los Angeles County. To do so I have created a dataset of voucher usage rates, foreclosure rates, and neighborhood economic and demographic conditions at the census tract level from 2008-2016. I use mapping and descriptive statistics to illustrate the constrained geography of voucher usage over time, particularly for Black renters. Regressions indicate that, controlling for demographic and economic indicators, foreclosure rates remain a significant predictor of which census tracts see growth in voucher usage after the recession.

Next, I show how public opposition to Black voucher renters is mobilized through policing. Through interviews with 43 local residents in the Antelope Valley (most of whom are white), I show that local residents are almost universally hostile to voucher users, voicing their opposition in racial, gendered, and economic terms. Many local residents surveil Black neighbors they assume are using vouchers, and share information about them with others on the block. A subset of these local residents uses this information to make calls to the city’s municipal code enforcement office, the local housing authority, and the county sheriff’s department to dispatch these agencies to investigate and possibly fine, arrest, or eventually evict Black renters. In this way, local residents use policing to evict Black renters and re-segregate the neighborhood.

Finally, through 40 interviews, I show how this context of reception affects the lives of Black voucher renters. They report being socially excluded by neighbors, and are aware that they are being monitored for the purpose of filing frivolous complaints. Seeking to protect their access to affordable housing, many reduce their visibility to the public to minimize the chances that hostile neighbors will call city and police agencies to inspect their homes and possibly evict them.