Aside on Labor Utilization: From the March 17, 2011 IAS 107 Lecture
Uwe Reinhardt: The Rationale for the Affordable Care Act

Causes of the Subprime Mortgage Bubble

David Min takes a look at American Enterprise Institute-quality research:

David Min: Faulty Conclusions Based on Shoddy Foundations: FCIC Commissioner Peter Wallison and Other Commentators Rely on Flawed Data from Edward Pinto to Misplace the Causes of the 2008 Financial Crisis....

Pinto’s work is based on a series of faulty assumptions and serious methodological flaws. Pinto’s controversial conclusion that federal housing policies were responsible for 19 million high-risk mortgages is based on radically revised definitions for the two main categories of high-risk mortgages, subprime loans and so-called Alt-A mortgages, which refer to loans with low documentation of income and wealth. Importantly, these revised definitions are not consistent with how the terms subprime and Alt-A are used for data collection, as this paper will demonstrate.

As a result of his dramatically expanded new definitions that are not used by other leading scholars, Pinto’s findings on the extent of subprime and Alt-A exposure are extreme outliers among mortgage market analysts. Pinto’s claim that there were 26.7 million subprime and Alt-A loans outstanding (out of roughly 55 million total) as of June 30, 2008, is exponentially higher than other estimates. In a 2010 report, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, the research arm of Congress, found there were only 4.58 million subprime and Alt-A mortgages outstanding at the end of 2009, less than one-fifth of Pinto’s estimate.

Similarly, Pinto’s claim that 19 million, or 72 percent of all “subprime” and “Alt-A” mortgages were attributable to federal affordable housing policies is far afield of the conclusions of other analysts. The claim is also difficult to reconcile with the actual data, which indicate the entire federal government (including Fannie and Freddie) owned or guaranteed only 32 percent of seriously delinquent loans despite holding 67 percent of all mortgages.12 Pinto’s claim that Fannie and Freddie were the primary driver of high-risk mortgages does not stand when the evidence is weighed accurately.

Because of Pinto’s anomalous findings, Wallison largely elides over the role of so-called “private-label” mortgage-backed securities in causing the crisis despite the large amount of attention these financial instruments received elsewhere, including in the FCIC majority’s report. This private mortgage financing channel, which does not involve the federal government at all and was policed only minimally, generated only 13 percent of outstanding loans but was responsible for 42 percent of serious delinquencies.

Pinto makes numerous other serious errors in his analysis. Case in point: In analyzing the influence of the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1977 antidiscrimination law that simply requires regulated banks and thrifts to lend nondiscriminatorily to low- and moderate-income borrowers and communities within the immediate geographic areas surrounding branch offices of a deposit- taking institution,15 Pinto includes a large quantity of loans that were not required by CRA or any other equivalent law or regulation.16 This mistake, coupled with some unsupported assumptions about the riskiness of CRA loans, produces a shockingly high estimate of 2.24 million “subprime” and “high-risk” loans attributable to CRA. This compares to a finding of 378,000 CRA-eligible loans originated during the housing bubble by other leading researchers.

Pinto also wrongly blames the affordable housing goals of Fannie and Freddie for the origination of Alt-A loans, which under his analysis account for 65% of the “high risk” mortgages attributable to Fannie and Freddie. In fact, these Alt-A loans (either according to the normal usage of “Alt-A” or Pinto’s newly invented definition of “Alt-A”) would not have qualified for the affordable housing goals...