Minority Lending and the Subprime Foreclosure Crisis
42 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2009 Last revised: 12 Sep 2013
Date Written: October 1, 2009
The current mortgage foreclosure crisis is presumably related to lax lending policies pursued by financial institutions that extended mortgages to borrowers with questionable credit. These so-called subprime mortgage loans were disproportionately offered in minority communities. Accordingly, some economists argue that the crisis is the result of government regulations, which facilitate mortgage access to minorities. Lenders are profit maximizers and regulations supposedly force them to engage in suboptimal behavior by extending credit to unworthy minorities. However, I find that, while subprime mortgage lending is higher in minority areas, the estimated mortgage foreclosure rate is lower in these areas. This evidence is inconsistent with the contention that regulations encouraging lending in minority areas contribute to the subprime foreclosure crisis. It instead indicates that the loan pricing process is biased against minorities, with lenders charging interest rates in minority areas that are not commensurate with the risk profiles of these areas’ residents. On average, moving from the bottom decile to the top decile of minority representations increases a county’s subprime lending by about 25.25%, but reduces the estimated subprime foreclosure rate by about 27.25%. I find no indication that the minority effect could be due to correlated omitted variables. Further analyses are suggestive of some form of irrational statistical discrimination, whereby unfamiliarity with minorities and stereotyping induce biases in lenders’ assessments of borrowers’ creditworthiness.
Keywords: regulations, subprime crisis, foreclosure, minority lending, discrimination, market efficiency
JEL Classification: G01, G14, G28, J71, J78
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation