What Fueled the Financial Crisis?

Working Paper

What Fueled the Financial Crisis?

An Analysis of the Performance of Purchase and Refinance Loans
April 4, 2018

Abstract

There is a good deal of debate on the causes of the housing crisis. Using Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae loan level data, this paper compares the default and loss behaviors of purchase, rate refinance and cash out refinance loans. Our results show that cash out refinances have the poorest performance, especially during the financial crisis. Purchase loans exhibit much better performance than rate refinances before and during the financial crisis; this pattern is weaker thereafter. Furthermore, we also show that First-Time-Home-Buyers have similar loan performance as that of repeat buyers. This evidence indicates that the expansion of lending to include more marginal borrowers may not be the main cause of the financial crisis. Instead, the poor performance of the cash out refinances and refinances more generally, are more important contributing factors.

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