Milwaukee Area Renters Study (MARS)


Matthew Desmond, Junior Fellow, Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Studies, Harvard University


The Milwaukee Area Renters Study (MARS) is an original survey of tenants in Milwaukee’s low-income private housing sector. Informed by a yearlong ethnographic study of eviction in inner-city Milwaukee, and funded primarily by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the MARS study was conducted via in-person interviews over the course of two field periods from fall of 2009 to fall 2011. (A pretest of fifty households was completed in the summer of 2009.) Interviewers visited over 3,000 households, selected from low- and high-poverty neighborhoods and through a multi-stage stratified probability sampling design. The survey collected data on tenants’ current housing situation, neighborhood characteristics, civic engagement, material hardship, and social networks. It also compiled a roster for all adults and children in the household. The bulk of the survey collected a two-year residential history from all respondents, who were asked about their previous housing conditions, rental behavior, landlords and building managers, and household rosters. In addition, this housing history module documented the location and number of moves each tenant has made in the previous two years and the reasons for those moves. In sum, the MARS Study collected data on the causes and consequences of eviction, and provided useful information about urban poverty, inner-city neighborhoods, the low-income housing market, and social networks among the poor.


Kerryann DiLoreto and Jessica Price


Summer 2009 – Fall 2011