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Criminal history and landlord rental decisions: a New York quasi-experimental study

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Determine the effect of a criminal conviction on landlord decisions to consider prospective tenants and the extent to which landlord responses vary based on prospective tenant’s offense type.


Using a quasi-experimental audit design, matched pairs of “testers” posing as prospective tenants called landlords across New York State to inquire about the possibility of renting a residence. Criminal conviction type was manipulated amongst equally eligible testers posing as non-offenders (control group) or as having one of three types of prior conviction: child molestation, statutory rape, or drug trafficking (quasi-experimental groups).


Analyses indicate that landlords are significantly less willing to consider prospective tenants with a criminal conviction, particularly when the conviction is for child molestation, although this effect was more strongly apparent with male testers.


The stigma associated with a child molestation conviction greatly impacts housing outcomes, but landlord characteristics and the sex of prospective tenants influence landlord decisions. This study has important implications for offender reentry and policies that should address this issue.

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  1. The rent for some properties was greater than $1,500 because landlords did not list a price online and later informed testers of a higher rental price. At least three landlords listed a price online and then claimed a higher price during the phone call.


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This research was supported in part by a faculty development grant from Mercy College. We would like to thank Tim Schilling, Ofia Begum, and Teal Schlueter for their help with this project. Their work was indispensable in completing the study. Also, special thanks to Devah Pager for her timely and invaluable input during early stages of study design. She is a gifted scholar and this work would not have been possible without her creativity and persistence. Finally, sincerest gratitude to Evan Misshula Arvind Verma, and Rossi Hassad for their kindness, support, and willingness to provide valuable feedback that greatly improved this paper.

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Correspondence to Douglas N. Evans.

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Evans, D.N., Porter, J.R. Criminal history and landlord rental decisions: a New York quasi-experimental study. J Exp Criminol 11, 21–42 (2015).

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