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Where's the smoking gun? a study of underwriting standards for US subprime mortgages

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  • Geetesh Bhardwaj
  • Rajdeep Sengupta

Abstract

The dominant explanation for the meltdown in the US subprime mortgage market is that lending standards dramatically weakened after 2004. Using loan-level data, we examine underwriting standards on the subprime mortgage originations from 1998 to 2007. Contrary to popular belief, we find no evidence of a dramatic weakening of lending standards within the subprime market. We show that while underwriting may have weakened along some dimensions, it certainly strengthened along others. Our results indicate that (average) observable risk characteristics on mortgages underwritten post-2004 would have resulted in a significantly lower ex post default if they were to be given a loan in 2001 or 2002. We show that while it is possible that underwriting standards in this market were poor to begin with, deterioration in underwriting post-2004 cannot be the explanation for collapse of subprime mortgage market.

Suggested Citation

  • Geetesh Bhardwaj & Rajdeep Sengupta, 2008. "Where's the smoking gun? a study of underwriting standards for US subprime mortgages," Working Papers 2008-036, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2008-036
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gary B. Gorton, 2008. "The Panic of 2007," NBER Working Papers 14358, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Rajdeep Sengupta, 2010. "Alt-A: the forgotten segment of the mortgage market," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 55-72.
    3. Khandani, Amir E. & Lo, Andrew W. & Merton, Robert C., 2013. "Systemic risk and the refinancing ratchet effect," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 29-45.
    4. Allen B Frankel, 2009. "The risk of relying on reputational capital: a case study of the 2007 failure of New Century Financial," BIS Working Papers 294, Bank for International Settlements.
    5. Davide Furceri & Annabelle Mourougane, 2009. "Financial Crises: Past Lessons and Policy Implications," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 668, OECD Publishing.
    6. Geetesh Bhardwaj & Rajdeep Sengupta, 2008. "Did prepayments sustain the subprime market?," Working Papers 2008-039, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    7. Jeremy M. Burke & Curtis R. Taylor & Liad Wagman, 2012. "Information Acquisition in Competitive Markets: An Application to the US Mortgage Market," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 65-106, November.
    8. James B. Bullard & Christopher J. Neely & David C. Wheelock, 2009. "Systemic risk and the financial crisis: a primer," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 403-418.
    9. Ashcraft, A. & Goldsmith-Pinkham, P. & Vickery, J., 2010. "MBS Ratings and the Mortgage Credit Boom," Discussion Paper 2010-89S, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    10. Richard J. Rosen, 2011. "Competition in mortgage markets: the effect of lender type on loan characteristics," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 2-21.
    11. Capozza, Dennis R. & Order, Robert Van, 2011. "The great surge in mortgage defaults 2006-2009: The comparative roles of economic conditions, underwriting and moral hazard," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 141-151, June.

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    Keywords

    Subprime mortgage;

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