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Nelson's research focuses on eviction, housing policy, and inequalities in the civil justice system. His dissertation explores how interactional and institutional dynamics shape eviction outcomes in the Los Angeles Superior Court system using ethnographic and historical methods. Themes in Nelson's writings include how the court system transform everyday troubles into legal problems, how lawyers’ expertise affects legal case outcomes, and how data accessibility shapes sociological and policy knowledge of social problems. Nelson is on the steering committee of the Renters' Right to Council-LA coalition in Los Angeles and is a member of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project-Los Angeles and LA Tenants Union.
In the News
Draws on fieldwork and administrative records from Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and Washington, DC— to identify how procedural and legal contexts differ by place, and the ways that these processes shape both eviction’s institutional life and its underlying social meanings. Identifies how the problem of eviction is no longer hidden in the housing literature, the explosion of eviction research has introduced a comparative analysis problem.
Discusses how the lack of sufficient affordable housing in Los Angeles, California burdens many renter households with the threat of an eviction. Mentions how research has identified individual- and neighborhood-level sociodemographic correlates of eviction, but the uneven distribution of sociodemographic characteristics and housing conditions across neighborhoods likely produces broader patterns of spatial clustering in eviction prevalence across local areas.
Analyzes California eviction court records for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties between 2005 and 2015. Finds that evictions are much more likely to occur in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and/or shares of African‐American individuals than in neighborhoods with rising rent or income levels. States that court‐based evictions are much more likely to be found in areas with low‐income households and racial minorities than areas experiencing rapid neighborhood change.
Describes how eviction transforms landlords into plaintiffs and tenants into defendants, turning everyday troubles into legal problems. Explores as tenants navigate this transformation, they struggle to defend themselves in ways the legal system considers appropriate. Shows the legal system facilities "interpretive disjuncture," which why so many tenants in Los Angeles default, or lose their case before their first court date.