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Why Did So Many People Make So Many Ex Post Bad Decisions? The Causes of the Foreclosure Crisis

  • Christopher L. Foote
  • Kristopher S. Gerardi
  • Paul S. Willen

We present 12 facts about the mortgage crisis. We argue that the facts refute the popular story that the crisis resulted from finance industry insiders deceiving uninformed mortgage borrowers and investors. Instead, we argue that borrowers and investors made decisions that were rational and logical given their ex post overly optimistic beliefs about house prices. We then show that neither institutional features of the mortgage market nor financial innovations are any more likely to explain those distorted beliefs than they are to explain the Dutch tulip bubble 400 years ago. Economists should acknowledge the limits of our understanding of asset price bubbles and design policies accordingly.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18082.

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Date of creation: May 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18082
Note: EFG
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  1. Foote, Christopher L. & Gerardi, Kristopher & Goette, Lorenz & Willen, Paul S., 2008. "Just the facts: An initial analysis of subprime's role in the housing crisis," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 291-305, December.
  2. 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.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser & Joshua D. Gottlieb & Joseph Gyourko, 2012. "Can Cheap Credit Explain the Housing Boom?," NBER Chapters, in: Housing and the Financial Crisis, pages 301-359 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Saul B. Klaman, 1959. "The Postwar Rise of Mortgage Companies," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number klam59-1, July.
  8. 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.
  9. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 2010. "Financial Innovation and Financial Fragility," Working Papers 2010.114, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  10. Pengfei Wang & Jianjun Miao, 2011. "Bubbles and Credit Constraints," 2011 Meeting Papers 94, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Ing-Haw Cheng & Sahil Raina & Wei Xiong, 2013. "Wall Street and the Housing Bubble," NBER Working Papers 18904, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Manuel Adelino & Kristopher Gerardi & Paul S. Willen, 2009. "Why don't lenders renegotiate more home mortgages?: redefaults, self-cures, and securitization," Public Policy Discussion Paper 09-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  13. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Christopher L. Foote & Paul S. Willen, 2010. "Reasonable people did disagree : optimism and pessimism about the U.S. housing market before the crash," Public Policy Discussion Paper 10-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  14. Ashcraft, Adam B. & Schuermann, Til, 2008. "Understanding the Securitization of Subprime Mortgage Credit," Foundations and Trends(R) in Finance, now publishers, vol. 2(3), pages 191-309, June.
  15. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Andreas Lehnert & Shane M. Sherlund & Paul S. Willen, 2009. "Making sense of the subprime crisis," FRB Atlanta Working Paper No. 2009-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  16. Jane Dokko & Brian Doyle & Michael T. Kiley & Jinill Kim & Shane Sherlund & Jae Sim & Skander Van den Heuvel, 2009. "Monetary policy and the housing bubble," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-49, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  17. Rubén Hernández-Murillo & Andra C. Ghent & Michael T. Owyang, 2012. "Did affordable housing legislation contribute to the subprime securities boom?," Working Papers 2012-005, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  18. Merton, Robert C, 1969. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection under Uncertainty: The Continuous-Time Case," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 51(3), pages 247-57, August.
  19. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153.
  20. Laibson, David I. & Fuster, Andreas & Mendel, Brock, 2010. "Natural Expectations and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Scholarly Articles 9938147, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  21. Elul, Ronel, 1997. "Financial innovation, precautionary saving and the risk-free rate," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 113-131, February.
  22. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  23. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Harvey S. Rosen & Paul S. Willen, 2010. "The Impact of Deregulation and Financial Innovation on Consumers: The Case of the Mortgage Market," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(1), pages 333-360, 02.
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