Mortgage Rates Are Low: Why Aren’t Minority Homeowners Refinancing?


The reasons behind the racial disparity in refinancing align with documented evidence about other inequities in housing, Keys said during an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast above.) Structural racism built into both public policy and the private sector has led to longstanding asymmetry in income, credit scores, loan-to-value ratios and other risk factors that inhibit refinancing for minorities.

The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the problem, Keys said, because Black and Hispanic households are more likely to experience job loss than white households. The U.S. unemployment rate in May dropped to 5.8%, yet it was 7.3% for Hispanics and 9.1% for Blacks.

“Some of this may be a function of just measuring incomes and employment disruptions, but I think there is another factor, which is related to just how tight mortgage credit is right now,” Keys added. “Mortgage credit is perceived as being very tight. It can be a hard time to get a loan, and there are a lot of hoops to jump through when you’re refinancing.”

Author(s): Benjamin Keys interviewed on Wharton Business Daily

Publication Date: 6 July 2021

Publication Site: Knowledge @ Wharton

How Costly is Noise? Data and Disparities in Consumer Credit






We show that lenders face more uncertainty when assessing default risk of historically under-served groups in US credit markets and that this information disparity is a quantitatively important driver of inefficient and unequal credit market outcomes. We first document that widely used credit scores are statistically noisier indicators of default risk for historically under-served groups. This noise emerges primarily through the explanatory power of the underlying credit report data (e.g., thin credit files), not through issues with model fit (e.g., the inability to include protected class in the scoring model). Estimating a structural model of lending with heterogeneity in information, we quantify the gains from addressing these information disparities for the US mortgage market. We find that equalizing the precision of credit scores can reduce disparities in approval rates and in credit misallocation for disadvantaged groups by approximately half.

Author(s): Laura Blattner, Scott Nelson

Publication Date: 17 May 2021

Publication Site: arXiv

Mortgage Mayhem



Studying successful entrepreneurs is great; I am looking forward to reading Brad Stone’s new book, Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. But studying unsuccessful ones can be more enlightening. As Charlie Munger says, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.” The trouble is that there are few books written about unsuccessful entrepreneurs. The next best thing is a parliamentary hearing. This week, Lex Greensill, founder of Greensill Capital, appeared in front of the UK House of Commons Treasury Committee to help lawmakers understand what went wrong.

The Chair of the Committee cited the piece Steve Clapham and I wrote back in July last year warning of problems at Greensill. Lex Greensill didn’t confirm if he’d read it but replied that he didn’t become concerned about the position of his business until December. His view is that the failure of his firm rests with the insurance company that denied him cover. He even used the opportunity to give the Committee a recommendation: “…one of the real lessons from the failure of my firm… is that a heavy reliance on trade credit insurance is dangerous. I urge you and the Committee to consider the manner in which that is regulated, because it is fundamentally counter cyclical in its behaviour.”  

No surprise that he would deflect. The firm failed because it was riddled with conflicts of interest, carried heavy customer concentrations and grew too fast. The problem with unsuccessful entrepreneurs is that they may be less than honest.

Author(s): Marc Rubinstein

Publication Date: 14 May 2021

Publication Site: Net Interest at substack

Banks Snub Chicago Aldermen On Equitable Mortgage Lending



Home ownership rates in Chicago’s Black and Latino communities have been falling, according to information presented by Anthony Simpkins, president and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.

Citing research by the DePaul Institute for Housing, Simpkins said not only are banks lending less in Black and Latino neighborhoods, they are also filing more foreclosures.

And he said borrowers of color who are able to get a loan are often charged a higher interest rate; in 2019 he said Woodstock Institute found nearly 35% of African American mortgage borrowers in Chicago paid higher rates, 17% of Latino borrowers.

Author(s): Linda Lutton

Publication Date: 27 February 2021

Publication Site: WBEZ