The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Rental Market: Evidence From Craigslist

John Kuk, Ariela Schachter, Jacob William Faber, Max Besbris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past research has demonstrated the racially and spatially uneven impacts of economic shocks and environmental disasters on various markets. In this article, we examine if and how the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic affected the market for rental housing in the 49 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Using a unique data set of new rental listings gathered from Craigslist and localized measures of the pandemic’s severity we find that, from mid-March to early June, local spread of COVID-19 is followed by reduced median and mean rent. However, this trend is driven by dropping rents for listings in Black, Latino, and diverse neighborhoods. Listings in majority White neighborhoods experience rent increases during this time. Our analyses make multiple contributions. First, we add to the burgeoning literature examining the rental market as a key site of perpetuating sociospatial inequality. Second, we demonstrate the utility of data gathered online for analyzing housing. And third, by reflecting on research that shows how past crises have increased sociospatial inequality and up-to-date work showing the racially and spatially unequal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we discuss some possible mechanisms by which the pandemic may be affecting the market for rental housing as well as implications for long-term trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1623-1648
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Craigslist
  • neighborhoods
  • racial inequality
  • rental housing prices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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