tim thomas Ph.D.

Urban sociologist, social demographer, and data scientist.
Postdoc at UC Berkeley's Urban Displacement Project.
Researching racial disparities in evictions, urban displacement,
and neighborhood change.

I am the research director for University of California, Berkley's Urban Displacement Project. I specialize in urban sociology, demographic methods, and spatial statistics with a research focus on how neighborhood change, housing, and displacement affects household socioeconomic stratification by race and gender in the United States. To understand these dynamics, I apply data science methods to large, messy administrative datasets and merge them with US Census and panel data.

My interdisciplinary research involves both scholarly and policy-relevant work. My dissertation, “Forced Out: Race, Market, and Neighborhood Dynamics of Evictions,” identifies racial and gender disparities in eviction filings in King County, WA in 2013 along with associated neighborhood segregation, housing market, and rent burden trends for an otherwise unknown population. Using a Bayesian model to estimate the race and gender of evicted households, I find that black adults are overrepresented in eviction filings six times more than whites, with black female adults facing eviction filing rates seven times higher than white female adults. Neighborhood spatial analysis finds that the most affordable, gentrifying, and racially diverse neighborhoods have the highest likelihood of an eviction filing in King County, WA. Since my dissertation defense in 2017, this study helped settle a disparate impact case prosecuted by the ACLU and the Northwest Justice Project and laid the groundwork for an extended study and public report for the Puget Sound Region titled “The State of Evictions.” This extended study utilizes machine learning and natural language processing to pull defendant addresses and reasons for eviction from several million pages of eviction court filings over 14 years. In collaboration with state politicians, attorneys, and advocates, “The State of Evictions” report helped pass a new Washington State law that extends the eviction pay or vacate period from three days to fourteen days. My 12-member evictions research team and I are expanding this work to other under-studied areas including Baltimore, Connecticut, Indianapolis, and Chicago.

My research and teaching interests include urban sociology, race & ethnicity, neighborhood change, residential segregation, housing & poverty, residential mobility, social organization, data dcience, statistics, and spatial demography.