It has been just over a decade since the Supreme Court decided in Kelo v. New London that local governments can take private property by eminent domain under a very broad reading of “public use”. Cato held an event earlier this year to examine the legal impact of Kelo, featuring remarks from George Mason Law Professor Ilya Somin based upon his recent book, The Grasping Hand. Not only has Kelo spawned widespread public backlash, but its also given birth to renewed interest by legal scholars. As an economist, I am a little more interested in the direct impact on families.
Unfortunately, I have had no luck finding a database of all U.S. takings. The American Housing Survey (AHS), conducted by the Census Bureau every two years, does, however, offer some estimates. For survey respondents who moved within the previous year, the AHS asks respondents the “main reason” for leaving their previous unit. One option offered is “government displacement”. For the survey years since Kelo, the average has been 109,000 households who state that government action displaced them from their previous home. If that average holds for non-survey years, then a good estimate is that just over a million households have been displaced by government action since Kelo.