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Essays in Homeownership and Mortgage Finance


This dissertation consists of two chapters on mortgage finance and homeownership. Federal policy often institutes uniform pricing across regions in the name of fairness. I study the unintended consequences of such uniform pricing in the context of the residential mortgage market, which is heavily influenced by the securitization policies of the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). I show that the regional uniformity of GSE-conforming mortgage rates leads to credit rationing. I develop three results by exploiting differences in the strength of lender rights --- state laws that limit a lender's recourse and ability to foreclose on property --- as a source of regional variation. First, controlling for borrower characteristics, I find that GSE-securitized mortgage rates do not vary across lender rights whereas those of privately securitized mortgages do vary. Second, the lack of regional variation in mortgage rates leads to the credit rationing of marginal borrowers in regions with borrower-friendly laws, whereas, regression discontinuity and bunching estimates show that the GSEs "cherry-pick" the better risks leading to greater credit access in lender-friendly areas. Finally, I find that the GSEs' cost of funds advantage distorts the pool of borrowers available to the private market and that only some of the GSE-rationed borrowers can access privately securitized mortgages. Overall, the results demonstrate how uniform regional pricing and cost of funds advantages of the GSEs distorts the competitive landscape of the US mortgage market.

The second chapter studies the impact of homeownership on intergenerational mobility. The benefits of homeownership feature prominently in the academic and policy discussions alike. Increasing homeownership has been a major policy goal for decades, especially in low-income areas. We show that the positive relationship between homeownership and intergenerational mobility is highly place-dependent. First, we link commuting zone-level homeownership rates to intergenerational mobility, and find a strong positive relationship. The relationship persists after instrumenting for ownership using housing supply and price shocks. Second, we show that the positive relation between of homeownership and upward mobility is significantly diminished or disappears in areas with high sprawl or segregation, whether we use income segregation, racial segregation, or a new measure of homeowner segregation. These results, as well as additional findings on the formation of social capital and on school quality, suggest that homeownership may not benefit, or may even disadvantage children in segregated, poor areas, possibly through reduced residential mobility.

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