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Lessons from the Great American Real Estate Boom and Bust of the 1920s

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  • Eugene N. White

Abstract

Although long obscured by the Great Depression, the nationwide "bubble" that appeared in the early 1920s and burst in 1926 was similar in magnitude to the recent real estate boom and bust. Fundamentals, including a post-war construction catch-up, low interest rates and a "Greenspan put," helped to ignite the boom in the twenties, but alternative monetary policies would have only dampened not eliminated it. Both booms were accompanied by securitization, a reduction in lending standards, and weaker supervision. Yet, the bust in the twenties, which drove up foreclosures, did not induce a collapse of the banking system. The elements absent in the 1920s were federal deposit insurance, the "Too Big To Fail" doctrine, and federal policies to increase mortgages to higher risk homeowners. This comparison suggests that these factors combined to induce increased risk-taking that was crucial to the eruption of the recent and worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

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  • Eugene N. White, 2009. "Lessons from the Great American Real Estate Boom and Bust of the 1920s," NBER Working Papers 15573, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15573
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    Cited by:

    1. Markus K. Brunnermeier & Isabel Schnabel, 2014. "Bubbles and Central Banks: Historical Perspectives," Working Papers 1411, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, revised 31 Oct 2014.
    2. William N. Goetzmann & Frank Newman, 2010. "Securitization in the 1920's," NBER Working Papers 15650, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Michael D. Bordo & Joseph G. Haubrich, 2012. "Deep Recessions, Fast Recoveries, and Financial Crises: Evidence from the American Record," NBER Working Papers 18194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Michael D. Bordo & John Landon-Lane, 2014. "Does Expansionary Monetary Policy Cause Asset Price Booms? Some Historical and Empirical Evidence," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Sofía Bauducco & Lawrence Christiano & Claudio Raddatz (ed.), Macroeconomic and Financial Stability: challenges for Monetary Policy, edition 1, volume 19, chapter 3, pages 61-116 Central Bank of Chile.
    5. Michael D. Bordo, 2013. "The Federal Reserve's Role: Actions Before, During, and After the 2008 Panic in the Historical Context of the Great Contraction," Economics Working Papers 13111, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
    6. Tyler Wiggers & Adam B. Ashcraft, 2012. "Defaults and losses on commercial real estate bonds during the Great Depression era," Staff Reports 544, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    7. Jonathan D. Rose, 2012. "The prolonged resolution of troubled real estate lenders during the 1930s," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-31, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    8. Valletta, Robert G., 2013. "House lock and structural unemployment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 86-97.
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    12. Rik Frehen & William N. Goetzmann & K. Geert Rouwenhorst, 2014. "Dutch Securities for American Land Speculation in the Late Eighteenth Century," NBER Chapters,in: Housing and Mortgage Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 287-304 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    14. Michael Brocker & Christopher Hanes, 2014. "The 1920s American Real Estate Boom and the Downturn of the Great Depression: Evidence from City Cross-Sections," NBER Chapters,in: Housing and Mortgage Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 161-201 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    17. Ehsan U. Choudhri & Lawrence L. Schembri, 2013. "A Tale of Two Countries and Two Booms, Canada and the United States in the 1920s and the 2000s: The Roles of Monetary and Financial Stability Policies," Working Paper series 44_13, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
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    20. Alexander J. Field, 2013. "The Interwar Housing Cycle in the Light of 2001-2011: A Comparative Historical Approach," NBER Working Papers 18796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Natacha Postel-Vinay, 2014. "Debt Dilution in 1920s America: Lighting the Fuse of a Mortgage Crisis," Working Papers 0053, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    22. Michael D. Bordo, 2014. "The Federal Reserve's Role: Actions Before, During, and After the 2008 Panic the Historical Context of the Great Contraction," Book Chapters,in: Martin Neil Baily & John B. Taylor (ed.), Across the Great Divide: New Perspectives on the Financial Crisis, chapter 6 Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
    23. Ureche-Rangau, Loredana & Burietz, Aurore, 2013. "One crisis, two crises…the subprime crisis and the European sovereign debt problems," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 35-44.
    24. Jonathan D. Rose, 2014. "The Prolonged Resolution of Troubled Real Estate Lenders during the 1930s," NBER Chapters,in: Housing and Mortgage Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 245-284 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N22 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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