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Irrational Exuberance in the U.S. Housing Market; Were Evangelicals Left Behind?

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  • Christopher W. Crowe

Abstract

The recent housing bust has reignited interest in psychological theories of speculative excess (Shiller, 2007). I investigate this issue by identifying a segment of the U.S. population-evangelical protestants-that may be less prone to speculative motives, and uncover a significant negative relationship between their population share and house price volatility. Evangelicals' focus on Biblical prophecy could account for this difference, since it may enable them to interpret otherwise negative events as containing positive news, dampening the response of house prices to shocks. I provide evidence for this channel using a popular internet measure of "prophetic activity" and a 9/11 event study. I also analyze survey data covering religious beliefs and asset holding, and find that 'end times' beliefs are associated with a one-third decline in net worth, consistent with these beliefs providing a form of psychic insurance (Scheve and Stasavage, 2006a and 2006b) that reduces asset demand.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher W. Crowe, 2009. "Irrational Exuberance in the U.S. Housing Market; Were Evangelicals Left Behind?," IMF Working Papers 09/57, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:09/57
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McCleary, Rachel & Barro, Robert, 2003. "Religion and Economic Growth across Countries," Scholarly Articles 3708464, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. Glaeser, Edward L. & Gyourko, Joseph & Saiz, Albert, 2008. "Housing supply and housing bubbles," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 198-217, September.
    3. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    4. Russett, Bruce & Slemrod, Joel, 1993. "Diminished Expectations of Nuclear War and Increased Personal Savings: Evidence from Individual Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 1022-1033, September.
    5. Joseph Gyourko & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2013. "Superstar Cities," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 167-199, November.
    6. Robert J. Shiller, 2007. "Understanding recent trends in house prices and homeownership," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 89-123.
    7. Giovanni Dell’Ariccia & Deniz Igan & Luc Laeven, 2012. "Credit Booms and Lending Standards: Evidence from the Subprime Mortgage Market," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44, pages 367-384, March.
    8. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    9. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
    10. Scheve, Kenneth & Stasavage, David, 2006. "Religion and Preferences for Social Insurance," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 1(3), pages 255-286, July.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The Bible and the price volatility
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-05-16 05:59:00

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Asset prices; Population; Private savings; Housing prices; United States; Housing; Household credit; house prices; economics of Religion; asset price cycles; religion; survey; correlation; protestants; statistics;

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