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January 22, 2024

The dynamics of housing cost burden among renters in the United States

Colburn, G., Hess, C., Allen, R., & Crowder, K. (2024). The dynamics of housing cost burden among renters in the United States. Journal of Urban Affairs, 1–20.

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Housing cost burden—defined as paying more than 30% of household income for housing—has become a central feature of the American stratification system with dire consequences for the health and well-being of adults and children living in burdened households. To date, existing research has largely focused on the overall prevalence and distribution of housing cost burden—that is, the percentage of households that are cost burdened at a given time and differences in exposure to housing cost burden based on race and income using cross-sectional sources of data. To more fully understand the dynamics of housing cost burden among renter households in the United States including the frequency and duration of spells, we use 50 years of longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). The analysis reveals that, in contrast to the episodic nature of poverty, housing cost burden is deep, frequent, and persistent for a growing share of American households.


Housing cost burden; rental housing; housing affordability; rent burden