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A proposal to help distressed homeowners: a government payment-sharing plan
This public policy brief presents a proposal, originally posted on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in January of this year, designed to help homeowners who are unable to afford mortgage payments on their principal residence because they have suffered a significant income disruption and because the balance owed on their mortgage exceeds the value of their home. These homeowners represent a subset of the population of distressed homeowners, but according to our research they face an elevated risk of default and are unlikely to be helped by current foreclosure-reduction ...
U. S. labor supply in the twenty-first century
The American labor force will be transformed as the twenty-first century unfolds, a change that will confront policymakers and business firms with new challenges and new opportunities. The impending slowdown of labor force growth that will accompany the retirement of the baby boom generation already is playing a central role in national debates over the future solvency of Social Security and Medicare, as well as U.S. immigration policies. But labor supply changes will be influenced by other dimensions as well. In the coming decades, American workers are likely to be, on average, older and ...
An economist reports from Baghdad: reviving the Iraqi economy in the aftermath of war
A Boston Fed economist chronicles his three-month stint helping to stabilize the Iraqi economy and put its economic institutions on a solid foundation.
The Impact of the Age Distribution on Unemployment: Evidence from US States
Economists have studied the potential effects of shifts in the age distribution on the unemployment rate for more than 50 years. Most of this analysis uses a “shift-share” method, which assumes that the demographic structure has no indirect effects on age-specific unemployment rates. This paper uses state-level data to revisit the influence of the age distribution on unemployment in the United States. We examine demographic effects across the entire age distribution rather than just the youth share of the population—the focus of most previous work—and extend the date range of analysis ...
Reasonable people did disagree : optimism and pessimism about the U.S. housing market before the crash
Understanding the evolution of real-time beliefs about house price appreciation is central to understanding the U.S. housing crisis. At the peak of the recent housing cycle, both borrowers and lenders appealed to optimistic house price forecasts to justify undertaking increasingly risky loans. Many observers have argued that these rosy forecasts ignored basic theoretical and empirical evidence that pointed to a massive overvaluation of housing and thus to an inevitable and severe price decline. We revisit the boom years and show that the economics profession provided little such ...
Cross-sectional patterns of mortgage debt during the housing boom: evidence and implications
The reallocation of mortgage debt to low-income or marginally qualified borrowers plays a central role in many explanations of the early 2000s housing boom. We show that such a reallocation never occurred, as the distribution of mortgage debt with respect to income changed little even as the aggregate stock of debt grew rapidly. Moreover, because mortgage debt varies positively with income in the cross section, equal percentage increases in debt among high- and low-income borrowers meant that wealthy borrowers accounted for most new debt in dollar terms. Previous research stressing the ...
Rising Geographic Disparities in US Mortality
The 21st century has been a period of rising inequality in both income and health. In this study, we find that geographic inequality in mortality for midlife Americans increased by about 70 percent from 1992 to 2016. This was not simply because states such as New York or California benefited from having a high fraction of college-educated residents who enjoyed the largest health gains during the last several decades. Nor was higher dispersion in mortality caused entirely by the increasing importance of “deaths of despair,” or by rising spatial income inequality during the same period. ...
Why did so many people make so many ex post bad decisions?: the causes of the foreclosure crisis
This paper presents 12 facts about the mortgage market. The authors argue that the facts refute the popular story that the crisis resulted from financial industry insiders deceiving uninformed mortgage borrowers and investors. Instead, they argue that borrowers and investors made decisions that were rational and logical given their ex post overly optimistic beliefs about house prices. The authors 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 ...
The Great Recession
Presented on September 10, 2010 at Bentley University to the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts.
Mortgage-default research and the recent foreclosure crisis
This paper reviews recent research on mortgage default, focusing on the relationship of this research to the recent foreclosure crisis. Research on defaults was advanced both theoretically and empirically by the time the crisis began, but economists have moved the frontier further by improving data sources, building dynamic optimizing models of default, and explicitly addressing reverse causality between rising foreclosures and falling house prices. Mortgage defaults were also a key component of early research that pointed to subprime and other privately securitized mortgages as fundamental ...