Recent Findings on Residential Instability in Oakland


Jackelyn Hwang, Stanford University; Vasudha Kumar, Stanford University; Elizabeth Kneebone, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

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February 10, 2023

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Safe, stable, and affordable housing is central to ensuring healthy, sustainable, and inclusive communities. Amid COVID-19-related economic shocks and a worsening housing crisis, residents in cities across California are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of housing. This report draws from a unique, longitudinal dataset of over 14,000 residents to examine residential instability–in the form of moving and household crowding–in the City of Oakland, California. It presents trends from the last 20 years, with an additional focus on patterns emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The authors find that lower credit score residents have left Oakland at accelerating rates in recent years, with least-resourced movers the most likely to leave the Bay Area altogether. Lower credit score residents also transitioned into crowded housing conditions at higher rates after the Great Recession; these transitions to crowded conditions subsided by 2020, but the pandemic once again pushed rates up for most groups. Rates of moving out and shifting into crowded housing in the last 20 years often trended in opposite directions, suggesting that lower credit score residents may make important tradeoffs to stay in their communities as housing price pressures increase. However, that most groups have seen increases in both crowding and moving since the pandemic may point to mounting and multiple instability pressures. Outcomes of instability were most pronounced for residents in Predominantly Black, Mixed Black, and Multiethnic neighborhoods in East and West Oakland.

Taken together, our findings highlight the vulnerability of lower credit score groups, especially those living in communities of color, and offer important insights for policymakers and practitioners working to stabilize Oakland’s most vulnerable residents. The report concludes with a discussion about the direction of future research.

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or the Federal Reserve System.


We would like to thank Iris Zhang and Sahir Qureshi for their excellent research assistance, and Stanford Impact Labs and the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Urban Studies Summer Fellow Program at Stanford University for supporting Stanford University in this work. We are also grateful to Crystal Ejanda for editorial guidance and graphic design.

Article Citation

Hwang, Jackelyn, Vasudha Kumar, Elizabeth Kneebone. 2023. “Recent Findings on Residential Instability in Oakland.” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Community Development Research Brief 2023-02. doi: 10.24148/cdrb2023-02.