Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Finance

First Advisor

Itay Glodstein

Second Advisor

Vincent Glode

Abstract

This dissertation is motivated by the housing crisis of 2008. It consists of three chapters. In the first chapter, "Too Much Skin-in-the-Game? The Effect of Mortgage Market Concentration on Credit and House Prices," I propose a new theory to help explain the housing crisis. During the housing boom, a small number of institutions - the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) and a few banks - held most of U.S. mortgage risk. I develop a theory in which such concentration of mortgage exposure can explain features of the housing crisis. I show that large lenders with many outstanding mortgages have incentives to extend risky credit to prop up house prices. An increase in concentration can lead to a boom with worsening credit quality and a subsequent bust with widespread defaults.

In the second chapter, "Concentration and Lending in Mortgage Markets," joint with Ronel Elul and David Musto, we attempt to test the theory described in the first chapter. We provide evidence that concentration in mortgage markets can create perverse lending incentives. We exploit variation in the size of the GSEs' outstanding mortgage exposure across MSAs. Using a loan-level dataset, we provide evidence that the GSEs were more likely to engage in high-risk activities in areas where they had a large exposure to outstanding mortgages. We also provide evidence that this relationship is driven by an incentive to keep house prices high.

In the final chapter, "Housing Booms and the Crowding-Out Effect," joint with Itay Goldstein, we study the effect that investment in real estate assets has on the economy. We develop a theory in which housing price booms can sometimes lead to a crowding-out of corporate investment. We show that an increase in real estate prices does not necessarily increase aggregate investment even when firms actively use real estate assets as collateral to borrow against and invest the proceeds in positive NPV projects. We argue that at times, it can be optimal to decrease the price of housing rather than to support high housing prices to stimulate the economy and characterize when this is the case.

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