Locked out: Women’s Housing Insecurity in a Hostile Social Environment Restricted; Files Only

Lewis, Patricia (Summer 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/3x816n902?locale=en


The safety and peace of mind afforded with stable housing is out of reach for many Americans, particularly low-income renter households. Almost half of all renters in the United States are considered housing cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing. Housing insecurity refers to various housing challenges that range in severity from having trouble paying rent, moving frequently, or doubling-up to more severe hardships like eviction or homelessness. Women, particularly women of color, head the majority of housing-insecure households in the U.S. However, the role intersectional gender inequity plays in women’s ability to secure and maintain safe and affordable housing is understudied and undertheorized. In this three-paper dissertation, I apply quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the role of a hostile social environment in women’s housing experiences, accounting for the intersecting impact of gendered and racialized violence at the state level, community level, and within the intimate household. First, drawing on an extensive review of sociological literature on gender, race, and housing, I propose a socio-ecological framework to study the feminization of housing insecurity in America’s racial caste system. Second, I draw on longitudinal data on a population of at-risk urban-dwelling mothers in the U.S. (n= 4,482) to investigate the potential individual-level pathways between IPV and housing insecurity and account for the way in which socio-political barriers in the community might condition the relationship. Finally, I use qualitative in-depth interview data with housing insecure women in Connecticut (n=16) to explore how violence confines women to inadequate housing in racially segregated neighborhoods. The results of these analyses demonstrate how marginalized urban-dwelling women are subjected to hostile social environments that deepen their vulnerabilities to housing insecurity. Specifically, violence from the state, community, and intimate partners intertwine to lock women in a hostile social environment in which their personal freedom is revoked and they are subject to abuse and deprivation. The dissertation concludes with implications for future research and public policy interventions to advance gender and racial equity in housing.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction 1

Literature Review           1

Intimate Partner Violence and Housing Insecurity             3

Community Violence and Housing Insecurity       4

Structural Violence and Housing Insecurity           5

Research Objectives and Questions         6

Why Intersectionality as a Framework?  6

Structure of the Dissertation      7

Chapter 2: Locked out: An intersectional gender analysis of residential attainment and the feminization of housing insecurity among low-income women in the U.S.              9

Introduction      9

Theoretical Framework: Gender, Intersectionality, and Social Inequality in Housing           12

Figure 1: The Feminization of Housing Insecurity in America’s Racial Caste System: A Multi-level Integrative Framework       15

The Feminization of Housing Insecurity within the American Racial Caste System 15

Housing-insecure by design: State sanctioning of racialized gender inequality       16

Racialized gender dynamics in landlord/tenant relations: Home ownership and locations of power  21

The role of intimate partner violence: Interactional gender inequality in a punitive social environment      24

Gendered strategies when you can’t pay rent: Constrained agency in response to housing insecurity            27

Conclusions       31

Chapter 3: Intimate Partner Violence and Housing Insecurity among Urban Mothers: The Role of a Hostile Social Environment        33

Introduction      33

Theoretical Background 34

Structural Barriers to Safe Housing          38

Summary and Hypotheses           40

Figure 2: Relationship Between IPV and housing Insecurity           41

Data and Methods          41

Measures           43

Analysis               46

Results 47

Fig. 3: Prevalence of Housing Insecurity and Intimate Partner Violence Across Time (N=4,482)              48

Fig 4: Prevalence of Housing Insecurity by Contemporaneous Physically Violent or Controlling Relationship Across Time      49

Table 1: Fixed effects logit models for risk of housing insecurity across time among mothers in Fragile Families Study (N=4,482)          51

Table 2: Fixed effects logit models examining the role of physical IPV in the risk of housing insecurity across time among mothers in Fragile Families Study (N=4,482)             52

Table 3: Fixed effects logit models examining the role of controlling IPV for risk of housing insecurity across time among mothers in Fragile Families Study (N=4,482)             52

Discussion          53

Chapter 4: “Either you get the safety or you get the affordable”: Constrained by violence in Connecticut's segregated cities  57

Introduction      57

Theory: Housing Insecurity in a Matrix of Violence            58

State Violence: Divestment from social welfare and neoliberal housing policies   61

Community Violence      63

Intimate Household Violence     64

Constrained Agency and Survival Strategies in the Face of Intersecting Violence  65

Study Context: Residential Segregation and Housing Insecurity in Connecticut      66

Study Purpose   68

Methods             69

Table 4: In-depth Interview Participant Demographics (N=16)      72

Analysis               72

Results 73

Figure 5: A Socio-ecological Framework of Violence and Housing Insecurity           75

State: Structural Barriers to Safe and Affordable Housing              76

Community: Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood and building      80

Intimate Households: Violence and Abandonment            83

Discussion          88

Chapter 5: Conclusion    94

Seeking Shelter in a Hostile Social Environment  94

Strengths and Limitations            96

Implications       97

References         99

Appendix I: Data Sharing and Access Agreements              122

Appendix II: Chapter 3 Supplementary Tables     123

Table A2.1: Factor Loadings for Concentrated Disadvantage         123

Table A2.2: Baseline Sample Characteristics and Descriptive Statistics of analysis variables (N=4,482)           123

Table A2.3: Random-effects logit models for risk of housing insecurity across time among mothers in Fragile Families Study (N=4,482)        124

Appendix III: Qualitative In-Depth Interview Guide           126

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