A Historiography of Early NBER Housing and Mortgage Research

Kenneth Snowden

Chapter in NBER book Housing and Mortgage Markets in Historical Perspective (2014), Eugene N. White, Kenneth Snowden, and Price Fishback, editors (p. 15 - 36)
Conference held September 23-24, 2011
Published in July 2014 by University of Chicago Press
© 2014 by the National Bureau of Economic Research

As the U.S. grew rapidly and urbanized between 1870 and 1930, nonfarm residential construction and home mortgage debt became increasingly important to the nation's capital formation, financial structure, and short-run aggregate performance. However, during this period, both activities remained highly localized, institutionally diverse, and unevenly regulated activities. This all changed during the Great Depression when the Federal Government responded to the worst housing and mortgage crisis in the nation's history with a five-year burst of regulatory initiatives. The NBER played a central role in the academic discussion of residential construction and mortgage finance that blossomed over the next quarter century. Between 1935 and 1960, the Bureau sponsored six distinct research programs that produced thirteen major monographs examining the performance and transformation of the housing and mortgage markets. When viewed collectively, these works provide a broad and deep analysis of residential construction and financing before World War I, through the boom and bust of the interwar years, and during a remarkable post-World War II expansion.

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