NBER Working Papers by Kenneth A. Snowden

Contact and additional information for this authorAll NBER papers and publicationsNBER Working Papers only

Working Papers

September 2012The New Deal and the Origins of the Modern American Real Estate Loan Contract
with Jonathan Rose: w18388
The introduction of the direct reduction (fully-amortized) loan contract to the U.S. residential mortgage market is an important instance of financial innovation. We describe the adoption of this contract within the building and loan (B&L) industry beginning in the 1880s and culminating in the 1930s. A long chain of complementary innovations at B&Ls gradually reduced the costs of adoption, leading to moderate use by the 1920s. The poor performance of traditional contracts during the crisis of the 1930s then radically altered the adoption calculus. At this point a new system of federal savings and loan charters incorporated many of the innovations that had been adopted within the small segment of the B&L industry that had introduced direct reduction lending by the 1920s. The B&L transit...


July 2010Covered Farm Mortgage Bonds in the Late Nineteenth Century U.S.
Covered mortgage bonds have been used successfully in Europe for two centuries, but failed in the U.S. when introduced as farm mortgage debentures in the 1880s. Using firm-level data and a sample of loans made by one Kansas mortgage company, I find that debenture programs grew out of established loan brokerage operations and were used to fund mortgages that were difficult to broker because of size, term or risk characteristics. Debentures broadened access to the interregional mortgage market and facilitated an expansion of western farm mortgage debt before the innovation failed in the mortgage crisis of the 1890s.
The Anatomy of a Residential Mortgage Crisis: A Look Back to the 1930s
Looking back to the 1930s provides the opportunity to examine one severe mortgage crisis as we live through another. This paper examines the development of the residential mortgage market during the 1920s, the institutional disruptions that occurred in the 1930s and the policy response of federal and state governments. The crisis reshaped the structure and development of the residential mortgage market and led to a postwar system in which portfolio lenders dominated both local and interregional markets. Some pre-1930 innovations--mortgage insurance and high-leverage, affordable loans--were written into federal programs and became part of the new system. But early experiments and proposals for securitization did not survive the 1930s and the implementation of this innovation was delayed ...

Published: "The Anatomy Of A Residential Mortgage Crisis: A Look Back To The 1930s", in L. Mitchell (ed.) The Panic of 2008: Causes, Consequences and Proposals for Reform.

Repairing a Mortgage Crisis: HOLC Lending and its Impact on Local Housing Markets
with Charles Courtemanche: w16245
The Home Owners' Loan Corporation purchased more than a million delinquent mortgages from private lenders between 1933 and 1936 and refinanced the loans for the borrowers. Its primary goal was to break the cycle of foreclosure, forced property sales and decreases in home values that was affecting local housing markets throughout the nation. We find that HOLC loans were targeted at local (county-level) housing markets that had experienced severe distress and that the intervention increased 1940 median home values and homeownership rates, but not new home building.

Published: Courtemanche, Charles & Snowden, Kenneth, 2011. "Repairing a Mortgage Crisis: HOLC Lending and Its Impact on Local Housing Markets," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(02), pages 307-337, June. citation courtesy of

Contact and additional information for this authorAll NBER papers and publicationsNBER Working Papers only

NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us