Economics

How Mortgage Finance Affects the Urban Landscape

How Mortgage Finance Affects the Urban Landscape
In Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Volume 5B, edited by Gilles Duranton, J. Vernon Henderson and William C. Strange. United Kingdom: North Holland, 2015.

Sewin Chan, Andrew Haughwout & Joseph Tracy
06/01/2015

This chapter considers the structure of mortgage finance in the United States and its role in shaping patterns of homeownership, the nature of the housing stock, and the organization of residential activity. We start by providing some background on the design features of mortgage contracts that distinguish them from other loans and that have important implications for issues presented in the rest of the chapter. We then explain how mortgage finance interacts with public policy, particularly tax policy, to influence a household's decision to own or rent and how shifts in the demand for owner-occupied housing are translated into housing prices and quantities, given the unusual nature of housing supply. We consider the distribution of mortgage credit in terms of access and price, by race, ethnicity, and income, and over the life cycle, with particular attention to the role of recent innovations such as nonprime mortgage securitization and reverse mortgages. The extent of negative equity has been unprecedented in the past decade, and we discuss its impact on strategic default, housing turnover, and housing investment. We describe spatial patterns in foreclosure and summarize the evidence for foreclosure spillovers in urban neighborhoods. Finally, we offer some thoughts on future innovations in mortgage finance.

Why Theory and Practice are Different: The Gap Between Principles and Reality in Subnational Revenue Systems

Why Theory and Practice are Different: The Gap Between Principles and Reality in Subnational Revenue Systems
In Richard Bird and Jorge Martinez Vazquez, eds. Taxation and Development: The Weakest Link. (Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2014).

Paul Smoke
11/26/2014

Ensuring adequate subnational revenues is a core concern of fiscal decentralization. Available empirical evidence suggests that subnational revenue generation in developing countries rarely meets needs and expectations, even where conventional advice has been or seems to have been followed. Are mainstream principles inappropriate, or are they just poorly applied? This chapter argues that both factors are often at play. Basic principles can be challenging to use, ignore certain critical factors, and say nothing about implementing the often demanding reforms they call for. The chapter outlines and illustrates common factors and dynamics at play and suggests how policy analysts might use and move beyond the mainstream principles to define more pragmatic and sustainable paths to subnational revenue reforms.

"Where, When, Why, and for whom do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away From the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects.

"Where, When, Why, and for whom do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away From the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects.
Sharkey, Patrick and Jacob W. Faber. 2014. "Where, When, Why, and for whom do Residential Contexts Matter? Moving Away From the Dichotomous Understanding of Neighborhood Effects." Annual Review of Sociology, 40: 559-579.

Patrick Sharkey and Jacob William Faber
05/05/2014

The literature on neighborhood effects frequently is evaluated or interpreted in relation to the question, “Do neighborhoods matter?” We argue that this question has had a disproportionate influence on the field and does not align with the complexity of theoretical models of neighborhood effects or empirical findings that have arisen from the literature. In this article, we focus on empirical work that considers how different dimensions of individuals' residential contexts become salient in their lives, how contexts influence individuals' lives over different timeframes, how individuals are affected by social processes operating at different scales, and how residential contexts influence the lives of individuals in heterogeneous ways. In other words, we review research that examines where, when, why, and for whom do residential contexts matter. Using the large literature on neighborhoods and educational and cognitive outcomes as an example, the research we review suggests that any attempt to reduce the literature to a single answer about whether neighborhoods matter is misguided. We call for a more flexible study of context effects in which theory, measurement, and methods are more closely aligned with the specific mechanisms and social processes under study.

Do Tax Credits Stimulate R&D Spending? The Effect of the R&D Tax Credit in its First Decade

Do Tax Credits Stimulate R&D Spending? The Effect of the R&D Tax Credit in its First Decade
Journal of Public Economics, 140, August 2016, 1-12

Rao, Nirupama S.
03/08/2014

This paper examines the impact of the U.S. federal R&D tax credit between 1981-1991 using confidential IRS data from corporate tax returns. The empirical analysis makes two key advances on previous work. First, it implements a new instrumental variables (IV) strategy based on tax changes that directly addresses the simultaneity of R&D spending and marginal credit rates. Second, the analysis makes use of new restricted- access IRS corporate return data describing R&D expenditures. Estimates imply that a ten percent reduction in the user cost of R&D leads the average firm to increase its research intensity—the ratio of R&D spending to sales—by 19.8 percent in the short-run. Long-run estimates imply that the average firm faces adjustment costs and increases spending over time, though small and young firms show evidence of reversing initial increases. Analysis of the components of qualified research shows that wages and supplies account for the bulk of the increase in research spending. Elasticities of qualified and total research intensities from a smaller sample suggest firms respond to user cost changes largely by increasing their qualified spending, meaning that the type of R&D the federal credit deems qualified research is an important margin on which the credit affects firm behavior. 

The Foreclosure Crisis and Community Development: Exploring the Foreclosed Stock in Hard-Hit Neighborhoods

The Foreclosure Crisis and Community Development: Exploring the Foreclosed Stock in Hard-Hit Neighborhoods
Housing Studies, forthcoming

Ingrid Gould Ellen, Josiah Madar, and Max Weselcouch
03/06/2014

As the foreclosure crisis continues, many communities are faced with a glut of properties that have completed the foreclosure process and are now owned by banks or other mortgage lenders. These properties, referred to as “real estate owned (REO),” often sit vacant for extended periods and, recent studies suggest, depress neighboring property values. They also impose significant costs on local governments, which must try to address the risk of crime, fire, and blight that vacant buildings pose. In addition, many worry that REO properties sold to unscrupulous short-term investors hasten neighborhood decline.

In this article we shed new light on the “REO problem” by studying the stock of REO properties at the neighborhood level in three urban areas: Fulton County, Georgia (which includes Atlanta), Miami-Dade County, Florida, and New York City. Using a combination of longitudinal administrative data sets on foreclosure filings, auction sales, and property transactions provided by local government sources, we identify every property transfer into REO ownership in recent years and all subsequent transfers of these properties. To explore the ongoing neighborhood and community development challenges, we divide census tracts into four groups based on their concentrations of REO properties as of the end of 2011. We then compare these neighborhood types across several dimensions. Because we use a uniform methodology for all three areas, we are also able to compare neighborhood groups across jurisdictions with the metrics we calculate.

We find several neighborhoods in Fulton County and Miami-Dade County with extremely high concentrations of REO properties as of the end of 2011, including some tracts with more than 100 REO properties. In New York City, however, REO concentrations are generally much lower, and no census tract had more than 12 REO properties. In all three jurisdictions, the neighborhoods with relatively high concentrations of REO properties are generally not the most distressed areas of their regions in terms of poverty and unemployment, but are still high-poverty and potentially vulnerable. Moreover, they are disproportionately black, highlighting the uneven impact the foreclosure crisis may be having on communities. Importantly, we find that that the number of REO properties in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of each area was declining as of the end of 2012 (or 2011, our latest year of data in Miami-Dade County), generally in line with the countywide or citywide trend in REO inventories, and that investors did not account for an appreciably higher proportion of purchasers of REO properties in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Furthermore, few of the properties that were purchased by investors appear to have been “flipped” within a short period. On the other hand, we also find that those REO properties that remained in these cities as of the end of 2012 or 2011 (including those in hard-hit neighborhoods) had been in REO for a longer duration than was typical one year earlier, so the composition of the REO stock may shifting towards more problematic properties. Additionally, in Fulton County’s hardest-hit tracts REO properties made up about 40 percent of all sales in 2012, so were likely still exerting significant downward pressure on housing prices. Finally while the National Stabilization Program (NSP) may be improving neighborhoods in other ways, we find that only a negligible share of the REO sales in the hardest-hit tracts of Fulton and Miami-Dade Counties in 2010 and 2011 were to non-profit entities and developers using NSP funds.

Pathways After Default: What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes

Pathways After Default: What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes
Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 48(2), February 2014.

Sewin Chan, Vicki Been, Andrew Haughwout and Claudia Sharygin
02/01/2014

We use a detailed dataset of seriously delinquent mortgages to examine the dynamic process of mortgage default—from initial delinquency and default to final resolution of the loan and disposition of the property. We estimate a two-stage competing risk hazard model to assess the factors associated with post-default outcomes, including whether a borrower receives a legal notice of foreclosure. In particular, we focus on a borrower’s ability to avoid a foreclosure auction by getting a modification, by refinancing the loan, or by selling the property. We find that the outcomes of the foreclosure process are significantly related to: loan characteristics including the borrower’s credit history, current loan-to-value and the presence of a junior lien; the borrower’s post-default payment behavior, including the borrower’s participation in foreclosure counseling; neighborhood characteristics such as foreclosure rates, recent house price depreciation and median income; and the borrower’s race and ethnicity.

My Brother's Keeper? The Association between Having Siblings in Poor Health and Wealth Accumulation

My Brother's Keeper? The Association between Having Siblings in Poor Health and Wealth Accumulation
Journal of Family Issues, February, Volume 35(3), pp.358-383.

Heflin, C. and N. Chiteji
02/01/2014

When confronted with the economic costs of addressing a serious health problem, many American households do not possess the ability to deal with the crises on their own and may turn to family members for help. Using longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we examine if the level of wealth held by individuals is related to the health problems of their siblings. We find evidence that having a sibling who has experienced a health problem decreases the amount of wealth that some families have. The research has implications for the existing literatures on altruism and kin networks, as it sheds some light on the nature of altruism that prevails in U.S. families and on how kinship networks matter. Because of its focus on the consequences of health problems, the research also has implications for public policy discussions about the health care system and social insurance more generally.

The Price of Liquor is Too Damn High: Alcohol Taxation and Market Structure

The Price of Liquor is Too Damn High: Alcohol Taxation and Market Structure

Rao, Nirupama S. (with Chris Conlon)
12/02/2013

We study the relative benefits of taxation versus market structure regulations for distilled spirits. One popular regulation, called post and hold, helps wholesalers set collusive prices as the competitive equilibrium of a single period game. Assembling new datasets of wholesale and retail prices, and sales, we show PH leads to average wholesale markups of 30-40%, with higher markups on expensive products. Taxes distort relative prices less than PH. We show Connecticut could increase tax revenue by 350% and improve consumer welfare while holding alcohol consumption fixed. However, we also show our counterfactual policy may be slightly regressive compared to PH. 

Race and neighborhoods in the 21st century: What does segregation mean today?

Race and neighborhoods in the 21st century: What does segregation mean today?
Regional Science and Urban Economics (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2013.09.006

De la Roca, Jorge, Ingrid Gould Ellen and Katherine M. O'Regan.
09/14/2013

Noting the decline in segregation between blacks and whites over the past several decades, some recent work argues that racial segregation is no longer a concern in the 21st century. In response, this paper revisits some of the concerns that John Quigley raised about racial segregation and neighborhoods to assess their relevance today. We note that while segregation levels between blacks and whites have certainly declined, they remain quite high; Hispanic and Asian segregation have meanwhile remained unchanged. Further, our analysis shows that the neighborhood environments of minorities continue to be highly unequal to those enjoyed by whites. Blacks and Hispanics continue to live among more disadvantaged neighbors, to have access to lower performing schools, and to be exposed to more violent crime. Further, these differences are amplified in more segregated metropolitan areas.

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