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Abstract

Mortgage Contract Decisions and Mortgage Distress: Family and Financial Life-Cycle Factors
by Frank Stafford and Elena Gouskova
WP 2010-225
The U.S. economy experienced a dramatic rise in the price of owner occupied housing during 1999-2007, and then a precipitous decline from 2007 through 2009. In this paper we utilize data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) during 1999-2009 to study first the factors and borrowing decisions which were related to the run-up and then to see how these diverse positions in owner-occupied housing related to the subsequent difficulties and mortgage distress as of 2009. Our research shows that much of the rise and subsequent difficulties were concentrated among younger and less educated homeowners, and that the difficulties were also concentrated in selected real estate markets where home owners were allocating a substantial share of their income to debt service and other home related outlays such as taxes, utilities, and insurance. This pattern of high costs to support a housing position is interpreted as the result of a speculative price run-up supported by the joint decisions of the homeowners and their lenders. In this process the older population took on more mortgage debt than in prior years and may now have less capacity to support help to other adult family members living outside the home.
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