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A Depressing Scenario: Mortgage Debt Becomes Unemployment Insurance

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  • Casey B. Mulligan

Abstract

When asset values fall, the owners of collateralized loans are not in an enviable position. Nonetheless, they possess a kind of monopoly power over their borrowers that they do not possess when borrowers are solvent. Lenders maximize profits by price discriminating, but create deadweight costs in the process. From the perspective of the aggregate labor market, it is as if lenders were levying their own labor income tax, on top of the taxes already levied by public treasuries. Governments have an incentive to regulate this price discrimination, repudiate part of the private debts, cut their own tax rates, or acquire the debt themselves. These conditions may describe both the 1930s and economic events today.

Suggested Citation

  • Casey B. Mulligan, 2008. "A Depressing Scenario: Mortgage Debt Becomes Unemployment Insurance," NBER Working Papers 14514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14514
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    Cited by:

    1. Hagedorn, Marcus & Karahan, Fatih & Manovskii, Iourii & Mitman, Kurt, 2013. "Unemployment benefits and unemployment in the Great Recession: the role of macro effects," Staff Reports 646, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, revised 01 Feb 2015.
    2. Will Dobbie & Jae Song, 2015. "Debt Relief and Debtor Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Consumer Bankruptcy Protection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1272-1311, March.
    3. Casey B. Mulligan, 2012. "Do Welfare Policies Matter for Labor Market Aggregates? Quantifying Safety Net Work Incentives since 2007," NBER Working Papers 18088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ohanian, Lee E. & Raffo, Andrea, 2012. "Aggregate hours worked in OECD countries: New measurement and implications for business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 40-56.
    5. Shai Bernstein & Timothy McQuade & Richard R. Townsend, 2017. "Do Household Wealth Shocks Affect Productivity? Evidence from Innovative Workers During the Great Recession," NBER Working Papers 24011, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Casey B. Mulligan, 2009. "Means-Tested Mortgage Modification: Homes Saved or Income Destroyed?," NBER Working Papers 15281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Casey Mulligan, 2009. "What Caused the Recession of 2008? Hints from Labor Productivity," NBER Working Papers 14729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Casey B. Mulligan, 2011. "The Expanding Social Safety Net," NBER Working Papers 17654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Kyle F. Herkenhoff & Lee E. Ohanian, 2012. "Foreclosure delay and U.S. unemployment," Working Papers 2012-017, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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