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Rent Burden


Rent burden is a form of housing instability that is defined as a household spending more than 30% of their income on rent. Households are categorized as severely cost burdened if they spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent.

Context/Impact on Health

Estimates show that nearly 80% of low-income households with children spend more than 30% of their income on rent. In the US, around 57% of children are affected by rent burden, with children in urban areas experiencing higher rates than those in rural areas. These geographic variations are due to differences in the supply of affordable housing across the country. Black and Hispanic children, along with children with immigrant parents, experience the highest rates of rent burden.

When families spend a significant portion of their income on rent, they may experience difficulties affording other necessities, including food, medical care, and childcare. Rent burden is also associated with adverse environmental factors within homes. Due to a limited rental market and high prices for housing, families may be forced to move into substandard housing that exposes them to health and safety risks, including mold, water leaks, poor ventilation, and inadequate heat and cooling systems. Some families may also be forced to move in with others, causing overcrowding and exposure to increased sleep disturbances, infectious diseases, and psychological distress.

Housing stability and broader neighborhood characteristics also have an impact on health outcomes. Research shows that individuals who face housing instability, including falling behind on rent, are more likely to experience poor health outcomes in comparison to their stably housed peers. According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, residents who are rent burdened experience higher rates of anxiety and depression. Cost burdens may also force families to move around more frequently, which has been associated with higher risks of chronic conditions and poor physical health in children. Residential instability is also shown to be linked to risks of teen pregnancy, early drug use, and depression among youth. Improving house quality, safety, and affordability can help mitigate these health impacts.

Data Collection Methodology

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide survey that collects information on the demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics of the US population. The ACS is an ongoing survey sent to 3.5 million addresses each year. The ACM provides statistics on rent and housing for every community in the country.


Click here for References
  1. Rent Burden Data Source:  US Census Bureau. ACS: Rent Burden. Data year 2019. Accessed April 2023.
  2. Aratani Y, Chau M, Wight V, Addy S. Rent Burden, Housing Subsidies and the Well-being of Children and Youth. National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). Published November 2011. Accessed October 16, 2023.
  3. Denary W, Fenelon A, Schlesinger P, Purtle J, Blankenship KM, Keene DE. Does rental assistance improve mental health? Insights from a longitudinal cohort study. Soc Sci Med. 2021;282:114100. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114100
  4. Taylor L. Housing and Health: an Overview of the Literature. Health Affairs. Published online June 7, 2018. doi: 10.1377/hpb20180313.396577
  5. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (OASH). Healthy People 2030: Social Determinants of Health Literature Summaries: Housing Instability. US Department of Health and Human (USHHS). Accessed October 12, 2023.