Neighbourhood-level relative risk of bed bug infestation in Chicago.

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Bed bugs have re-established themselves as a common household pest in the United States and pose significant public health and economic concerns, particularly in urban areas. Documenting the scale of the bed bug resurgence and identifying the socioeconomic factors that determine the likelihood of infestation is challenging, largely because data typically come from biased self-reporting that is required by local government. Here, we make use of a novel source of systematically collected data from periodic inspections of multifamily housing units in Chicago to investigate neighbourhood drivers of bed bug infestation prevalence in Chicago. This work confirms what has long been suspected for bed bugs, but also for public health issues in general: bed bug infestations are strongly associated with neighbourhood income (higher risk in poorer neighbourhoods), eviction rates (higher risk here evictions are more prevalent), and crowding (higher risk in more crowded neighbourhoods). That bed bug prevalence is higher in lower income neighbourhoods with higher levels of household crowding and eviction notices provides important empirical evidence of the disproportionate allocation of public health burdens upon neighbourhoods already facing multiple dimensions of disadvantage (e.g., poverty, contaminated water and health inequalities).