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Why did so many people make so many ex post bad decisions? the causes of the foreclosure crisis

  • Christopher L. Foote
  • Kristopher S. Gerardi
  • Paul S. Willen

We present 12 facts about the mortgage crisis. We argue that the facts refute the popular story that the crisis resulted from finance industry insiders deceiving uninformed mortgage borrowers and investors. Instead, we argue that borrowers and investors made decisions that were rational and logical given their ex post overly optimistic beliefs about house prices. We then show that neither institutional features of the mortgage market nor financial innovations are any more likely to explain those distorted beliefs than they are to explain the Dutch tulip bubble 400 years ago. Economists should acknowledge the limits of our understanding of asset price bubbles and design policies accordingly.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 2012-07.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2012-07
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  1. Adam B. Ashcraft & Til Schuermann, 2008. "Understanding the securitization of subprime mortgage credit," Staff Reports 318, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. Andreas Fuster & David Laibson & Brock Mendel, 2010. "Natural Expectations and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 67-84, Fall.
  3. Saul B. Klaman, 1959. "The Postwar Rise of Mortgage Companies," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number klam59-1, 07.
  4. Foote, Christopher L. & Gerardi, Kristopher & Goette, Lorenz & Willen, Paul S., 2008. "Just the facts: An initial analysis of subprime's role in the housing crisis," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 291-305, December.
  5. Rubén Hernández-Murillo & Andra C. Ghent & Michael T. Owyang, 2012. "Did affordable housing legislation contribute to the subprime securities boom?," Working Papers 2012-005, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  6. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Harvey S. Rosen & Paul S. Willen, 2010. "The Impact of Deregulation and Financial Innovation on Consumers: The Case of the Mortgage Market," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(1), pages 333-360, 02.
  7. Jianjun Miao & PENGFEI WANG, 2011. "Bubbles and Credit Constraints," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2011-031, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  8. Ing-Haw Cheng & Sahil Raina & Wei Xiong, 2013. "Wall Street and the Housing Bubble," NBER Working Papers 18904, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Manuel Adelino & Kristopher Gerardi & Paul S. Willen, 2009. "Why don't lenders renegotiate more home mortgages?: redefaults, self-cures, and securitization," Public Policy Discussion Paper 09-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  10. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Andreas Lehnert & Shane M. Sherlund & Paul S. Willen, 2009. "Making sense of the subprime crisis," Public Policy Discussion Paper 09-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  11. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153, March.
  12. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2009. "What Comes to Mind," NBER Working Papers 15084, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. John P. Herzog & James S. Earley, 1970. "Home Mortgage Delinquency and Foreclosure," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number herz70-1, 07.
  14. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 2010. "Financial Innovation and Financial Fragility," Working Papers 2010.114, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  15. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2009. "The Consequences of Mortgage Credit Expansion: Evidence from the U.S. Mortgage Default Crisis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1449-1496, November.
  16. Jane Dokko & Brian Doyle & Michael T. Kiley & Jinill Kim & Shane Sherlund & Jae Sim & Skander Van den Heuvel, 2009. "Monetary policy and the housing bubble," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-49, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  17. Edward L. Glaeser & Joshua D. Gottlieb & Joseph Gyourko, 2012. "Can Cheap Credit Explain the Housing Boom?," NBER Chapters, in: Housing and the Financial Crisis, pages 301-359 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Merton, Robert C, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection under Uncertainty: The Continuous-Time Case," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 247-57, August.
  19. Christopher L. Foote & Kristopher Gerardi & Paul S. Willen, 2008. "Negative equity and foreclosure: theory and evidence," Public Policy Discussion Paper 08-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  20. Elul, Ronel, 1997. "Financial innovation, precautionary saving and the risk-free rate," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 113-131, February.
  21. Simsek, Alp, 2012. "Belief Disagreements and Collateral Constraints," Scholarly Articles 9561259, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  22. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  23. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Christopher L. Foote & Paul S. Willen, 2010. "Reasonable people did disagree : optimism and pessimism about the U.S. housing market before the crash," Public Policy Discussion Paper 10-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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