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Housing wealth and wage bargaining

  • Chris Cunningham
  • Robert R. Reed

We examine the relationship between housing equity and wage earnings. We first provide a simple model of wage bargaining where failure leads to both job loss and mortgage default. Moreover, foreclosure generates disutility beyond selling a home. We test this prediction using nine waves of the national American Housing Survey. Employing a rich set of time and place controls, individual fixed effects, and an instrumental variable strategy, we find that people with an underwater mortgage command a significantly lower wage than other homeowners. This finding survives a number of robustness checks. We also include other determinants of "house lock" such as a favorable mortgage interest rate relative to the current rate and a capped property tax assessment, but we do not find these factors lower earnings. We conclude that negative equity matters because default is unpleasant or costly, not because it precludes an out-of-state job search..

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series Working Paper with number 2012-20.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2012-20
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  1. Deng, Yongheng & Quigley, John M. & Van Order, Robert, 1999. "Mortgage Terminations, Heterogeneity, and the Exercise of Mortgage Options," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt96r560pg, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
  2. Chan, Sewin, 2001. "Spatial Lock-in: Do Falling House Prices Constrain Residential Mobility?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 567-586, May.
  3. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko & Joseph Tracy, 2011. "Housing busts and household mobility: an update," Staff Reports 526, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  4. John Nagy, 1997. "Did Proposition 13 Affect the Mobility of California Homeowners ?," Public Finance Review, , vol. 25(1), pages 102-116, January.
  5. Ferreira, Fernando, 2010. "You can take it with you: Proposition 13 tax benefits, residential mobility, and willingness to pay for housing amenities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 661-673, October.
  6. Foote, Christopher L. & Gerardi, Kristopher & Willen, Paul S., 2008. "Negative equity and foreclosure: Theory and evidence," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 234-245, September.
  7. 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.
  8. Schulhofer-Wohl, Sam, 2012. "Negative equity does not reduce homeowners’ mobility," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Feb, pages 1-17.
  9. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko & Joseph Tracy, 2008. "Housing Busts and Household Mobility," NBER Working Papers 14310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Engelhardt, Gary V., 2003. "Nominal loss aversion, housing equity constraints, and household mobility: evidence from the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 171-195, January.
  11. Quigley, John M, 1987. "Interest Rate Variations, Mortgage Prepayments and Household Mobility," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(4), pages 636-43, November.
  12. Nada Wasi & Michelle J. White, 2005. "Property Tax Limitations and Mobility: The Lock-in Effect of California's Proposition 13," NBER Working Papers 11108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Neil Bhutta & Jane Dokko & Hui Shan, 2010. "The depth of negative equity and mortgage default decisions," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-35, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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