Contract Choice in the Interwar US Residential Mortgage Market
This paper studies mortgage contract choices in US history using a first-of-its-kind sample of residential loans from 1930 and 1940, linked to the decennial censuses. Contract choices reflected borrowers' reactions to the risks posed by different contracts. The majority of borrowers chose contracts with the longest available terms, despite required frequent amortization, likely in order to avoid refinancing risk and to maximize leverage. In contrast, the most creditworthy borrowers with high socioeconomic status preferred short-term contracts, confident that they could refinance at will. The ...
A primer on farm mortgage debt relief programs during the 1930s
This paper describes New Deal farm mortgage debt relief programs, implemented through the Federal Land Banks and the Land Bank Commissioner. Along with the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, the analogous program for nonfarm residential mortgage borrowers, these were the first large-scale mortgage debt relief programs in US history.
When good investments go bad: the contraction in community bank lending after the 2008 GSE takeover
In September 2008, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into conservatorship and dividend payments on common and preferred shares were suspended. As a result, share prices fell to nearly zero and many banks across the country lost the value of their investments in the preferred shares. We estimate more than 600 depository institutions in the United States were exposed to at least $8 billion in investment losses from these securities. In addition, fifteen failures and two distressed mergers either directly or indirectly resulted from the takeover. ...
What are the consequences of missed payments on consumer debts?
In order to understand better how the unfolding economic crisis is likely to affect U.S. households, this Chicago Fed Letter looks at what happens when borrowers miss debt payments and how long it takes for them to face a severe adverse consequence, such as foreclosure, wage garnishment, or repossession.
Can a Bank Run Be Stopped? Government Guarantees and the Run on Continental Illinois
This paper analyzes the run on Continental Illinois in 1984. We find that the run slowed but did not stop following an extraordinary government intervention, which included the guarantee of all liabilities of the bank and a commitment to provide ongoing liquidity support. Continental's outflows were driven by a broad set of US and foreign financial institutions. These were large, sophisticated creditors with holdings far in excess of the insurance limit. During the initial run, creditors with relatively liquid balance sheets nevertheless withdrew more than other creditors, likely reflecting ...
The prolonged resolution of troubled real estate lenders during the 1930s
This paper studies how building and loan associations (B&Ls) slowly unwound their obligations following a set of financial shocks during the Great Depression, with a special focus on a group of particularly troubled B&Ls in Newark, NJ. Investors in B&Ls disagreed over whether to realize losses on foreclosed real estate holdings, and those investors favoring liquidation were unable to force action after legal developments nullified statutory withdrawal privileges. In the medium run, a market-based resolution mechanism developed in the form of a secondary market for B&L liabilities. Liability ...
How Common Was Blockbusting in the Postwar U.S.?
This article documents the prevalence of blockbusting—the orchestration of racial turnover in urban neighborhoods—throughout many major U.S. cities from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Credit availability and the collapse of the banking sector in the 1930s
This paper examines the mechanism through which banking sector distress affects the availability of credit. We use the experience of the United States during the Great Depression, a period of intense bank distress, to conduct our analysis. We utilize previously neglected data from a 1934 survey conducted by the Federal Reserve System of both banks and Chambers of Commerce regarding the availability of credit, and examine which aspects of the banking system collapse affected credit availability as indicated by the survey. A number of scholars have posited different ways that bank distress ...
Housing Markets in a Time of Crisis: A Historical Perspective
As the coronavirus (Covid-19) public health crisis unfolds, a second crisis in the economy is developing as well. One economic concern, among many, is the debt burden of households. Early reports point to a surge in unemployment claims during March 2020, raising the prospect that widespread unemployment is likely to impair the ability of households to make payments on their home mortgages and other loans in the months ahead. This represents a potential crisis in mortgage markets, as borrowers who are temporarily unemployed—but for an unknown period—may face default on their mortgages.
The Resolution of a Systemically Important Insurance Company during the Great Depression
This paper explores the economic issues related to systemically important insurance companies, using an example from the Great Depression, the National Surety Company. National Surety was a large and diverse insurance company that experienced a major crisis in 1933 due to losses from its guarantees of mortgage-backed securities. A liquidity crisis ensued, as policyholders staged a massive run on the company, demanding the return of their unearned premiums. The New York State Insurance Commissioner stepped in with a reorganization plan that split the company in two, out of fear that a ...