Rent Control Rationing and Community Composition: Evidence from Massachusetts

David P Sims 1 , 1
  • 1 Brigham Young University,


This paper investigates whether rent control affects community socioeconomic composition. In particular, do rent controls increase the presence of poor and minority residents in a locale? Theoretically, the effect of rent control on community composition is ambiguous, as it depends upon several factors including willingness to occupy controlled apartments, landlord imposed rationing mechanisms, and spillover effects of rent controlled housing on uncontrolled units. Using census data on how Cambridge, Massachusetts and nearby communities responded to the state imposed end of rent control, I find evidence that rent control increased the presence of minority residents but also decreased the proportion of poor residents. This evidence is robust to alternate control areas and several specification checks. I also find that despite its positive impact on minority membership, rent control is associated with an increase in traditional measures of residential segregation.

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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy (BEJEAP) is an international forum for scholarship that employs microeconomics to analyze issues in business, consumer behavior and public policy. Topics include the interaction of firms, the functioning of markets, the effects of domestic and international policy and the design of organizations and institutions.