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Researchers identify link between rampant evictions and oil industry: 'Renters are almost invariably going to lose out'

"Evictions are not just the consequence of poverty, but really are one of the leading causes of poverty."

"Evictions are not just the consequence of poverty, but really are one of the leading causes of poverty."

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Researchers have discovered a link between an increased rate of evictions and the oil industry, indicating that short-term gratification may be having a concerning long-term impact. 

What's happening?

As detailed by Grist, a study by Princeton University was the latest to find an uptick in evictions after oil workers temporarily moved into a neighborhood. 

Williston, North Dakota, which saw its population double over a 10-year span, saw eviction filings rise from 0.002% to 7% from 2010 to 2019 as the dirty-energy industry went from churning out 300,000 barrels of oil per month to 7.5 million.

"Renters are almost invariably going to lose out in this equation," Carl Gershenson, the lead author and director of Eviction Lab at Princeton University, told Grist, which published the story with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.  

"A savvy landlord realizes that a lot of these people are coming for the season," Gershenson added. "And now you're renting out rooms instead of a whole house. In some cases, you can fit 10 or 12 people, you know, into a house that was renting out to one family." 

Why is this concerning?

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that evictions have been connected to a "growing list" of issues, including "birth outcomes, injection drug use, infectious disease, self-rated health, and mortality." 

People in lower-income communities are taking the brunt of the impact. 

They are also more vulnerable to the effects of rising global temperatures, which are mostly driven by the burning of dirty energy. Urban heat islands and poor air quality are among the concerns listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Small towns that have a sudden population boom may also pause investments in supportive long-term programs, as the immediate needs outweigh other considerations, per Grist.

"Evictions are not just the consequence of poverty, but really are one of the leading causes of poverty," Gershenson explained

What is being done about this?

William Caraher, a University of North Dakota associate professor of history and American Indian studies, pointed out to Grist that increased protection for renters is a way to limit evictions, as are community-benefit agreements that ensure long-term residents are being considered during economic expansion. 

Efforts by Williston residents to obtain stronger tenant rights were sadly unsuccessful during the oil boom. However, other neighborhoods have been victorious in that regard, and policymaking is an ongoing process, meaning change is possible. 

Talking with family and friends to raise awareness and advocating at a local level, including in the voting booth, are some ways to support issues that matter to you. 

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