The Scarlet E Unmasking America's Eviction Epidemic

Thursday, June 6, 2019
WNYC Studios

We have an eviction epidemic in this country. We’ve had one for a long time. And in this new four-part series from On the Media, host Brooke Gladstone will seek out the why and the wherefore — in search, ultimately, of a cure.

Episode 1: “Why?”
We hear the story of Jeffrey, a security guard whose hours were inconsistent, whose rent burden was beyond severe, and whose family now lives in a two-bed hotel room in Richmond, Virginia. And we meet our partner in this project, Matt Desmond — Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, and founder of the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Brooke and Matt hash out what we know and what we only think we know about the forces that drive eviction.

Episode 2: “40 Acres”
Eviction isn't without its own historical context. In vulnerable communities of people of color, in particular, displacement and denial of housing are phenomena centuries in the making. This episode maps the persistent line between racist housing policies, localized profiteering, and the devastating plunder of generations of wealth. 

Episode 3: “Landlords & Tenants”
This is the dollars-and-cents episode, in which we set our sights on those who own and those who rent. We visit Camden, Indianapolis, and Richmond to hear from tenants, landlords, advocates, and others about the practicalities and pitfalls of housing America’s poor families in the private rental market.

Episode 4: “Solutions”
The series concludes with evidence that despite the breadth and depth of the eviction epidemic, it is treatable in ways that will strengthen the overall health of the nation. 

The Eviction Lab created these report cards by collecting tens of millions of records dating back to 2000. If you have any lingering questions, check out the Eviction Lab’s FAQor dive into the data at

Support for “The Scarlet E” is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Melville Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and “Chasing the Dream,” a WNET initiative reporting on poverty and opportunity in America.

Listen to the episode here.