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Efforts in the spring of 2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a sharp contraction in U.S. economic growth and an unprecedented, rapid rise in unemployment. While the first wave of the pandemic slowed the spring housing market, home sales rebounded sharply over the rest of the year, with strong gains in house prices. Given the rising house prices and continuing high unemployment, concerns arose that COVID-19 may have negatively affected first-time homebuyers. Using a new and more accurate measure of first-time homebuyers, we find that these buyers have not been adversely affected by the pandemic. At the same time, gains from lower mortgage rates have gone to existing homeowners and not to households purchasing their first home.
Andrew Haughwout, Haoyang Liu, Dean Parker, and Xiaohan Zhang
Housing represents the largest asset owned by most households and is a major means of wealth accumulation, particularly for the middle class. Yet there is limited understanding of how households view housing as an investment relative to financial assets, in part because of their differences beyond the usual risk and return trade-off. Housing offers households an accessible source of leverage and a commitment device for saving through an amortization schedule. For an owner-occupied residence, it also provides stability and hedges for rising housing costs. On the other hand, housing is much less liquid than financial assets and it also requires more time to manage. In this post, we use data from our just released SCE Housing Survey to answer several questions about how households view this choice: Do households view housing as a good investment choice in comparison to financial assets, such as stocks? Are there cross-sectional differences in preferences for housing as an investment? What are the factors households consider when making an investment choice between housing and financial assets?
Andrew F. Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Today, the New York Fed’s
Center for Microeconomic Data reported that household debt balances increased by $206 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, marking a $414 billion increase since the end of 2019. But the COVID pandemic and ensuing recession have marked an end to the dynamics in household borrowing that have characterized the expansion since the Great Recession, which included robust growth in auto and student loans, while mortgage and credit card balances grew more slowly. As the pandemic took hold, these dynamics were altered. One shift in 2020 was a larger bump up in mortgage balances. Mortgage balances grew by $182 billion, the biggest quarterly uptick since 2007, boosted by historically high volumes of originations. Here, we take a close look at the composition of mortgage originations, which neared $1.2 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2020, the highest single-quarter volume seen since our series begins in 2000. The Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit and this analysis are based on the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, which is itself based on anonymized Equifax credit data.
Olivier Armantier, Leo Goldman, Gizem Koşar, Jessica Lu, Rachel Pomerantz, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
In this post we analyze consumer beliefs about the duration of the economic impact of the pandemic and present new evidence on their expected spending, income, debt delinquency, and employment outcomes, conditional on different scenarios for the future path of the pandemic. We find that between June and August respondents to the New York Fed Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE) have grown less optimistic about the pandemic’s economic consequences ending in the near future and also about the likelihood of feeling comfortable in crowded places within the next three months. Although labor market expectations of respondents differ considerably across fairly extreme scenarios for the evolution of the COVID pandemic, the difference in other economic outcomes across scenarios appear relatively moderate on average. There is, however, substantial heterogeneity in these economic outcomes and some vulnerable groups (for example, lower income, non-white) appear considerably more exposed to the evolution of the pandemic.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, William Nober, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
COVID-19 and associated social distancing measures have had major labor market ramifications, with massive job losses and furloughs. Millions of people have filed jobless claims since mid-March—6.9 million in the week of March 28 alone. These developments will surely lead to financial hardship for millions of Americans, especially those who hold outstanding debts while facing diminishing or disappearing wages. The CARES Act, passed by Congress on April 2, 2020, provided $2.2 trillion in disaster relief to combat the economic impacts of COVID-19. Among other measures, it included mortgage and student debt relief measures to alleviate the cash flow problems of borrowers. In this post, we examine who could benefit most (and by how much) from various debt relief provisions under the CARES Act.
More than two million American households are at risk of eviction every year. Evictions have been found to cause prolonged homelessness, worsened health conditions, and lack of credit access. During the COVID-19 outbreak, governments at all levels implemented eviction moratoriums to keep renters in their homes. As these moratoriums and enhanced income supports for unemployed workers come to an end, the possibility of a wave of evictions in the second half of the year is drawing increased attention. Despite the importance of evictions and related policies, very few economic studies have been done on this topic. With the exception of the Milwaukee Area Renters Study, evictions are rarely measured in economic surveys. To fill this gap, we conducted a novel national survey on evictions within the Housing Module of the Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE) in 2019 and 2020. This post describes our findings.
Average economic outcomes serve as important indicators of the overall state of the economy. However, they mask a lot of underlying variability in how people experience the economy across geography, or by race, income, age, or other attributes. Following our series on heterogeneity broadly in October 2019 and in labor market outcomes in March 2020, we now turn our focus to further documenting heterogeneity in the credit market. While we have written about credit market heterogeneity before, this series integrates insights on disparities in outcomes in various parts of the credit market. The analysis includes a look at differing homeownership rates across populations, varying exposure to foreclosures and evictions, and uneven student loan burdens and repayment behaviors. It also covers heterogeneous effects of policies by comparing financial health outcomes for those with access to public tuition subsidies and Medicare versus those not eligible. The findings underscore that a measure of the average, particularly relating to policy impact, is far from complete. Rather, a sharper picture of the diverse effects is essential to understanding the efficacy of policy.
James Conklin, W. Scott Frame, Kristopher Gerardi, and Haoyang Liu
Editor’s note: When this post was first published, the chart labels for “Non-Boom Counties” were incorrect; the labels have been corrected. (February 26, 12:00 pm)
The role of subprime mortgage lending in the U.S. housing boom of the 2000s is hotly debated in academic literature. One prevailing
narrative ascribes the unprecedented home price growth during the mid-2000s to an expansion in mortgage lending to subprime borrowers. This post, based on our recent working paper, “Villains or Scapegoats? The Role of Subprime Borrowers in Driving the U.S. Housing Boom,” presents evidence that is inconsistent with conventional wisdom. In particular, we show that the housing boom and the subprime boom occurred in different places.
Given momentum in house prices over business cycles, research on consumer beliefs since the financial crisis has honed in on the potential importance of extrapolative beliefs—myopically assuming trends in asset prices will continue. Extrapolation is frequently cited as a central reason for excessively optimistic expectations about future asset prices, featuring prominently, for example, in the irrational exuberance narrative of Shiller. Other influential work since the Great Recession has emphasized the outsized role that extrapolative optimists can have in bubble formation. In this post, we look at how much dispersion there is in the amount of house price extrapolation and how consequential extrapolative beliefs could be for house price dynamics.
Olivier Armantier, Andrew F. Haughwout, Gizem Kosar, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
The New York Fed today held a press briefing on homeownership in the United States, in connection with its release of the 2019 Survey of Consumer Expectations Housing Survey. The briefing opened with remarks from New York Fed President John Williams, who provided commentary on the macroeconomic outlook and summarized the prospects for homeownership. He noted that the labor market remains very strong and that there seems to be little evidence of inflationary pressures, meaning that the economy is on a healthy growth path.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
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