Fraudulent Income Overstatement on Mortgage Applications During the Credit Expansion of 2002 to 2005

52 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2015

See all articles by Atif R. Mian

Atif R. Mian

Princeton University - Department of Economics; Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; NBER

Amir Sufi

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; NBER

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2015

Abstract

Academic research, government inquiries, and press accounts show extensive mortgage fraud during the housing boom of the mid-2000s. We explore a particular type of mortgage fraud: the overstatement of income on mortgage applications. We define “income overstatement” in a zip code as the growth in income reported on home-purchase mortgage applications minus the average IRS-reported income growth from 2002 to 2005. Income overstatement is highest in low credit score, low income zip codes that Mian and Sufi (2009) show experience the strongest mortgage credit growth from 2002 to 2005. These same zip codes with high income overstatement are plagued with mortgage fraud according to independent measures. Income overstatement in a zip code is associated with poor performance during the mortgage credit boom, and terrible economic and financial economic outcomes after the boom including high default rates, negative income growth, and increased poverty and unemployment. From 1991 to 2007, the zip code-level correlation between IRS-reported income growth and growth in income reported on mortgage applications is always positive with one exception: the correlation goes to zero in the non-GSE market during the 2002 to 2005 period. Income reported on mortgage applications should not be used as true income in low credit score zip codes from 2002 to 2005.

Suggested Citation

Mian, Atif R. and Sufi, Amir, Fraudulent Income Overstatement on Mortgage Applications During the Credit Expansion of 2002 to 2005 (February 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w20947. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2562237

Atif R. Mian (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

NBER

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Amir Sufi

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

NBER

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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