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Author:Tracy, Joseph 

Working Paper
The rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
We describe and evaluate the measures taken by the U.S. government to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008. We begin by outlining the business model of these two firms and their role in the U.S. housing finance system. Our focus then turns to the sources of financial distress that the firms experienced and the events that ultimately led the government to take action in an effort to stabilize housing and financial markets. We describe the various resolution options available to policymakers at the time and evaluate the success of the choice of conservatorship, and other actions taken, in terms of five objectives that we argue an optimal intervention would have fulfilled. We conclude that the decision to take the firms into conservatorship and invest public funds achieved its short-run goals of stabilizing mortgage markets and promoting financial stability during a period of extreme stress. However, conservatorship led to tensions between maximizing the firms? value and achieving broader macroeconomic objectives, and, most importantly, it has so far failed to produce reform of the U.S. housing finance system.
AUTHORS: Frame, W. Scott; Fuster, Andreas; Tracy, Joseph; Vickery, James
DATE: 2015-03-01

Working Paper
Monopsony in Spatial Equilibrium
An emerging labor economics literature studies the consequences of firms exercising market power in local labor markets. These monopsony models have implications for trends in earnings inequality. The extent of this market power is likely to vary across local labor markets. In choosing what market to live and work in, workers trade off wages, rents and local amenities. Building on the Rosen/Roback spatial equilibrium model, we investigate how the existence of local monopsony power affects the cross-sectional spatial distribution of wages and rents across cities. We find an employment-weighted elasticity of land prices to concentration of ?0.034?similar to Rinz (2018)?s reported elasticity of compensation to concentration. This finding has implications for who bears the economic incidence of labor market power. We present two extensions of the model focusing on the role of migration costs and worker skill heterogeneity.
AUTHORS: Kahn, Matthew E.; Tracy, Joseph
DATE: 2019-10-15

Working Paper
A Closer Look at the Behavior of Uncertainty and Disagreement: Micro Evidence from the Euro Area
This paper examines point and density forecasts of real GDP growth, inflation and unemployment from the European Central Bank?s Survey of Professional Forecasters. We present individual uncertainty measures and introduce individual point- and density-based measures of disagreement. The data indicate substantial heterogeneity and persistence in respondents? uncertainty and disagreement, with uncertainty associated with prominent respondent effects and disagreement associated with prominent time effects. We also examine the co-movement between uncertainty and disagreement and find an economically insignificant relationship that is robust to changes in the volatility of the forecasting environment. This provides further evidence that disagreement is not a reliable proxy for uncertainty.
AUTHORS: Rich, Robert W.; Tracy, Joseph
DATE: 2018-07-24

Working Paper
A Closer Look at the Behavior of Uncertainty and Disagreement: Micro Evidence from the Euro Area
This paper examines point and density forecasts of real GDP growth, inflation and unemployment from the European Central Bank?s Survey of Professional Forecasters. We present individual uncertainty measures and introduce individual point- and density-based measures of disagreement. The data indicate substantial heterogeneity and persistence in respondents? uncertainty and disagreement, with uncertainty associated with prominent respondent effects and disagreement associated with prominent time effects. We also examine the co-movement between uncertainty and disagreement and find an economically insignificant relationship that is robust to changes in the volatility of the forecasting environment. This provides further evidence that disagreement is not a reliable proxy for uncertainty.
AUTHORS: Rich, Robert W.; Tracy, Joseph
DATE: 2018-09-28

Journal Article
Stocks in the household portfolio: a look back at the 1990s
The growing prominence of stocks as a household asset in the 1990s encouraged the view that the United States had become a nation of zealous investors alert to every market development and eager to acquire new stocks. Yet an analysis of the factors behind the rise in the household equity share suggests that exceptionally high returns on stocks_rather than aggressive investment behavior_accounted for much of the increased importance of stocks.
AUTHORS: Tracy, Joseph; Schneider, Henry
DATE: 2001-04

Journal Article
The homeownership gap
Recent years have seen a sharp rise in the number of negative equity homeowners--those who owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. These homeowners are included in the official homeownership rate computed by the Census Bureau, but the savings they must amass to retain their home or purchase a new home are daunting. Recognizing that these homeowners are likely to convert to renters over time, the authors of this analysis calculate an "effective" rate of homeownership that excludes negative equity households. They argue that the effective rate--5.6 percentage points below the official rate--may be a useful guide to the future path of the official rate.
AUTHORS: Peach, Richard; Tracy, Joseph; Haughwout, Andrew F.
DATE: 2010-05

Journal Article
Are stocks overtaking real estate in household portfolios?
The rapid growth of the stock market since 1990 has encouraged the view that corporate equity holdings are becoming the primary asset for a broad spectrum of American households. A closer look at the evidence, however, reveals that real estate continues to eclipse stocks as a share of most households' portfolios.
AUTHORS: Schneider, Henry; Tracy, Joseph; Chan, Sewin
DATE: 1999-04

Journal Article
Help for unemployed borrowers: lessons from the Pennsylvania Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program
In an environment of high foreclosure rates and distressed housing markets, federal policies are focusing on loan modifications to help delinquent homeowners pay their mortgages. While it is too soon to assess the effectiveness of these modifications, policymakers considering future refinements may gain insight from a more established, state-level enterprise that takes an alternative approach to mortgage relief. The Pennsylvania Homeowners? Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program provides temporary income support to homeowners unable to pay their mortgage during a spell of unemployment. The program has helped most participants retain their homes while paying off their loans?at a potentially lower cost than that of other relief initiatives.
AUTHORS: Sporn, John; Tracy, Joseph; Orr, James A.; Huang, Junfeng
DATE: 2011-04

Journal Article
Housing busts and household mobility: an update
Interest in the relationship between household mobility and financial frictions, especially frictions associated with negative home equity, has grown following the recent boom and bust in U.S. housing markets. With prices falling 30 percent nationally, negative equity greatly expanded across many markets. More recently, the decline in mortgage rates along with various policy interventions to encourage refinancing at historically low rates suggests the need to also revisit mortgage interest rate lock-in effects, which are likely to become important once Federal Reserve interest rate policy normalizes. In this article, the authors update their estimates (from Ferreira, Gyourko, and Tracy [2010]) of the impact of three financial frictions?negative equity, mortgage interest rate lock-in, and property tax lock-in?on household mobility. By adding 2009 American Housing Survey (AHS) data to their sample, the authors incorporate the effect of more recent house price declines. They also create an improved measure of permanent moves in response to Schulhofer-Wohl?s (2011) critique of their earlier work. The authors? updated estimates corroborate their previous results: Negative equity reduces household mobility by 30 percent, and $1,000 of additional mortgage or property tax costs lowers mobility by 10 to 16 percent. Schulhofer-Wohl?s finding of a zero or a slight positive correlation between mobility and negative equity appears to be due to a large fraction of false positives, as his coding methodology tends to misclassify almost half of the additional moves it identifies relative to the authors? measure of permanent moves. This also makes his mobility measure dynamically inconsistent, as many transitions originally classified as a move are reclassified as a nonmove when additional AHS data become available. The article concludes by suggesting directions for future research, including potential improvements to measures of household mobility.
AUTHORS: Tracy, Joseph; Ferreira, Fernando; Gyourko, Joseph
DATE: 2012-11

Journal Article
Long-term outcomes of FHA first-time homebuyers
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which insures mortgages for low- to moderate-income homebuyers, has stated that its goal is to foster sustainable homeownership. This study proposes metrics for evaluating the degree to which the FHA has succeeded in this mission for an important program constituency, first-time homebuyers. The approach uses data from the New York Fed?s Consumer Credit Panel, a data source that makes it possible to observe new mortgage borrowers? long-term outcomes. The findings presented in sample scorecards show, for example, that in the 2001 and 2002 cohorts, 55 percent achieved ?sustainability,? paying off their FHA first-time mortgages and remaining homeowners without the need for a subsequent FHA mortgage. Roughly 12 percent failed, seeing their homeownership experiences end in default. The remainder reached less clear outcomes, with 12 percent paying off their FHA loans but transitioning back to rental homes, 10-12 percent continuing on with their original loans while building more home equity, and 8-10 percent purchasing a trade-up home, relying once more on an FHA loan.
AUTHORS: Tracy, Joseph; Lee, Donghoon
DATE: 2018

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