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Forbearance by Contract: How Building and Loans Mitigated the Mortgage Crisis of the 1930s

Sebastián Fleitas, Price Fishback, Kenneth Snowden

NBER Working Paper No. 21786
Issued in December 2015
NBER Program(s):The Program on the Development of the American Economy

During the Great Depression, Building and Loans (B&Ls), the leading home lenders, had a structure that mitigated the crisis. Borrowers were owners of the B&L and dissolution of the institution required a two-thirds majority vote. Using panel data from New Jersey in the 1930s, we find that this voting rule delayed dissolution by about one year. The year delay allowed one-fourth of the borrowers in the at-risk B&L to pay off their loans, but nonborrowers lost share value. The net loss was roughly -0.67 percent of the value of all New Jersey B&L assets in the mid-1930s.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21786

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