Housing Affordability and Domestic Violence: The Case of San Francisco's Rent Control Policies


Policy advocates claim that one benefit of rent control may be decreased intimate partner violence (IPV). However, the theoretical effects of rent control on IPV are ambiguous. Rent control may lessen financial stressors within a relationship and decrease strain that leads to violence. However, it may make leaving the relationship more costly, shifting the bargaining power in the relationship and leading to more violence. We leverage the 1994 expansion of rent control in San Francisco as a natural experiment to study this question. This expansion created variation across zip codes in the number of rental units that were newly rent controlled. We exploit this variation in a continuous difference-in-difference design. We estimate an elasticity of -0.08 between the number of newly rent controlled units and assaults on women resulting in hospitalization. This effect translates to a nearly 10% decrease in assaults on women for the average zip code. This relationship is not explained by changes in neighborhood composition or overall crime, consistent with the effects being driven by individual level changes in IPV.

Nicole Holz
Nicole Holz
Economics PhD candidate

I am a doctoral candidate in economics at Northwestern University. I study questions in health economics and public economics.