The Federal Reserve Bank of New York works to promote sound and well-functioning financial systems and markets through its provision of industry and payment services, advancement of infrastructure reform in key markets and training and educational support to international institutions.
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.
Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Today, the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data reported that total household debt balances increased slightly in the third quarter of 2020, according to the latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. This increase marked a reversal from the modest decline in the second quarter of 2020, a downturn driven by a sharp contraction in credit card balances. In the third quarter, credit card balances declined again, even as consumer spending recovered somewhat; meanwhile, mortgage originations came in at a robust $1.049 trillion, the highest level since 2003. Many of the efforts to stabilize the economy in response to the COVID-19 crisis have focused on consumer balance sheets, both through direct cash transfers and through forbearances on federally backed debts. Here, we examine the uptake of forbearances on mortgage and auto loans and its impact on their delinquency status and the borrower’s credit score. This analysis, as well as the Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, is based on anonymized Equifax credit report data.
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.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, William Nober, and Maxim Pinkovskiy
Editor’s note: When this post was first published, the columns in the second table were mislabeled; the table has been corrected. (August 19, 9:30 a.m.)
Building upon our earlier Liberty Street Economics post, we continue to analyze the heterogeneity of COVID-19 incidence. We previously found that majority-minority areas, low-income areas, and areas with higher population density were more affected by COVID-19. The objective of this post is to understand any differences in COVID-19 incidence by areas of financial vulnerability. Are areas that are more financially distressed affected by COVID-19 to a greater extent than other areas? If so, this would not only further adversely affect the financial well-being of the individuals in these areas, but also the local economy. This post is the first in a three-part series looking at heterogeneity in the credit market as it pertains to COVID-19 incidence and CARES Act debt relief.
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.
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.
From the fourth quarter of 2017 through the third quarter of 2018, the average contract interest rate on new thirty-year fixed rate mortgages rose by roughly 70 basis points—from 3.9 percent to 4.6 percent. During this same period, there was a broad-based slowing in housing market activity with sales of new single-family homes declining by 7.6 percent while sales of existing single-family homes fell by 4.6 percent. Interestingly though, these declines in home sales were larger than in the two previous episodes when mortgage interest rates rose by a comparable amount. This post considers whether provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) might have also contributed to the recent decline in housing market activity.
In this post we take up the important question of the sustainability of homeownership for first-time buyers. The evaluation of public policies aimed at promoting the transition of individuals from renting to owning should depend not only on the degree to which such policies increase the number of first-time buyers, but also importantly on whether these new buyers are able to sustain their homeownership. If a buyer is unprepared to manage the financial responsibilities of owning a home and consequently must return to renting, then the household may have made little to no progress in wealth accumulation. Despite the importance of sustainability, to date there have been no efforts at measuring the sustainability of first-time homeownership. We provide an example of a first-time homebuyer sustainability scorecard.
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.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
Liberty Street Economics does not publish new posts during the blackout periods surrounding Federal Open Market Committee meetings.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
Economic Research Tracker
Liberty Street Economics is now available on the iPhone® and iPad® and can be customized by economic research topic or economist.
We encourage your comments and queries on our posts and will publish them (below the post) subject to the following guidelines:
Please be brief: Comments are limited to 1500 characters.
Please be quick: Comments submitted after COB on Friday will not be published until Monday morning.
Please be aware: Comments submitted shortly before or during the FOMC blackout may not be published until after the blackout.
Please be on-topic and patient: Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been reviewed to ensure that they are substantive and clearly related to the topic of the post. We reserve the right not to post any comment, and will not post comments that are abusive, harassing, obscene, or commercial in nature. No notice will be given regarding whether a submission will or will not be posted.
The LSE editors ask authors submitting a post to the blog to confirm that they have no conflicts of interest as defined by the American Economic Association in its Disclosure Policy. If an author has sources of financial support or other interests that could be perceived as influencing the research presented in the post, we disclose that fact in a statement prepared by the author and appended to the author information at the end of the post. If the author has no such interests to disclose, no statement is provided. Note, however, that we do indicate in all cases if a data vendor or other party has a right to review a post.