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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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  3. Kristopher S. Gerardi & Andreas Lehnert & Shane M. Sherlund & Paul S. Willen, 2009. "Making sense of the subprime crisis," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2009-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  4. 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.
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  6. Manuel Adelino & Kristopher S. 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.
  7. Andreas Fuster & David Laibson & Brock Mendel, 2010. "Natural Expectations and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 67-84, Fall.
  8. Saul B. Klaman, 1959. "The Postwar Rise of Mortgage Companies," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number klam59-1, December.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Edward L. Glaeser & Joshua D. Gottlieb & Joseph Gyourko, 2010. "Can Cheap Credit Explain the Housing Boom?," NBER Working Papers 16230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. John P. Herzog & James S. Earley, 1970. "Home Mortgage Delinquency and Foreclosure," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number herz70-1, December.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Simsek, Alp, 2012. "Belief Disagreements and Collateral Constraints," Scholarly Articles 9561259, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  17. Gorton, Gary B., 2010. "Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199734153.
  18. Jane K. Dokko & Brian M. Doyle & Michael T. Kiley & Jinill Kim & Shane M. Sherlund & Jae W. Sim & Skander J. 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.).
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Jianjun Miao & PENGFEI WANG, 2011. "Bubbles and Credit Constraints," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2011-031, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  22. Elul, Ronel, 1997. "Financial innovation, precautionary saving and the risk-free rate," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 113-131, February.
  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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