Published Papers


American Economic Review, September 2014, 104(9): 2830-57.

with Christopher Mayer, Edward Morrison, and Tomasz Piskorski

We investigate whether homeowners respond strategically to news of mortgage modification programs. We exploit plausibly exogenous variation in modification policy induced by U.S. state government lawsuits against Countrywide Financial Corporation, which agreed to offer modifications to seriously delinquent borrowers with subprime mortgages throughout the country. Using a difference-in-difference framework, we find that Countrywide's relative delinquency rate increased thirteen percent per month immediately after the program's announcement. The borrowers whose estimated default rates increased the most in response to the program were those who appear to have been the least likely to default otherwise, including those with substantial liquidity available through credit cards and relatively low combined loan-to-value ratios. These results suggest that strategic behavior should be an important consideration in designing mortgage modification programs.

Journal of Legal Studies, June 2016, 54(2):571-505

with Christopher Hansman and Ethan Frenchman

Roughly 450,000 people are detained awaiting trial on any given day, typically because bail has not been posted. Using a large sample of criminal cases in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, we analyze the consequences of bail assessment and pretrial detentions by exploiting the variation in bail setting tendencies among randomly assigned bail judges. Our estimates suggest that the assignment of money bail leads to a 6 percentage point rise in the likelihood of pleading guilty, and a 4 percentage point rise in recidivism. We also find evidence for racial bias in bail setting. Our results highlight the importance of credit constraints in shaping defendant judicial outcomes and point to important fairness considerations in the institutional design of pretrial detention programs. 


Working Papers


Forthcoming, Journal of Finance

I identify shocks to interest rates resulting from two administrative details in adjustable-rate mortgage contract terms: the choices of financial index and lookback period. I find that a 1 percentage point increase in interest rates at the time of ARM reset results in a 2.5 percentage rise in the probability of foreclosure in the following year; and that each foreclosure filing leads to an additional 0.3–0.6 completed foreclosures within a 0.10 mi radius. In explaining this result, I emphasize price effects, bank-supply responses, and borrower responses arising from peer effects.

R&R, Review of Financial Studies

with Kunal Sachdeva

We document the role that inside investment plays in managerial compensation and hedge fund performance. Merging against a comprehensive and survivor bias-free dataset of US hedge funds, we find that funds with greater "skin in the game" outperform on a factor-adjusted basis. We emphasize the role of capacity constraints in explaining this result: insider funds are smaller, are less likely to accept inflows in response to positive returns, and are more likely to be closed to outside investors. These results suggest that managers earn outsize rents by operating trading strategies further from their capacity constraints when managing their own money.

with Edward Morrison, Lawerence J. Cook, Heather Keenan, and Lenora M. Olson

This paper assesses the importance of adverse health shocks as triggers of bankruptcy filings. Using a sample of all auto crashes in Utah during a thirteen year period, we report two findings: (i) There is a strong positive correlation between an individual's financial condition and his or her likelihood of suffering a health shock, an example of behavioral consistency, and (ii) After accounting for this simultaneity, we are unable to identify a causal effect of health shocks on bankruptcy filing rates. These findings emphasize the importance of risk heterogeneity in determining financial fragility, raise questions about prior studies of "medical bankruptcy," and point to important challenges in identifying the triggers of consumer bankruptcy.

with Edward Morrison, Catherine R. Fedorenko, and Scott Ramsey

This paper explores the relationship between home equity and cancer-related mortality. We draw on data linking individual cancer records to administrative data on personal mortgages, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and credit reports. We present four findings: First, cancer diagnoses are financially destabilizing—as measured by mortgage de- faults, foreclosures, and bankruptcy filings—even among households with public or private health insurance. The instability is caused by out-of-pocket costs arising from work loss, transportation, and incomplete coverage of medical expenditures. Second, cancer diagnoses are destabilizing only for households that lack home equity, prevent- ing them from using their assets to smooth consumption. Third, individuals with positive home equity extract this equity (by refinancing a first mortgage or taking out a second mortgage) in response to cancer diagnoses. Fourth, individuals with access to home equity are more likely to accept recommended therapies and have higher post- diagnosis survival rates. Our findings are consistent with the idea that real estate plays an important role in understanding how individuals buffer idiosyncratic shocks.

with Christopher Hansman

Borrowers with large mortgages relative to their home values are more likely to default. This paper asks whether this correlation is due to moral hazard—the high balances and payments associated with large mortgages causing borrowers to default—or adverse selection—ex-ante risky borrowers choosing larger loans. To separate these information asymmetries, we exploit a natural experiment resulting from (i) the unique contract structure of Adjustable Rate Mortgages and (ii) the unexpected divergence, during the 2008 crisis, of two financial indices used to determine interest rate adjustments for these loans. We find that moral hazard is responsible for 60-70 percent of the baseline correlation between leverage and default, but adverse selection explains the remaining 30-40 percent. We construct and calibrate a simple model of mortgage choice and default with asymmetric information to highlight the policy tradeoff informed by these estimates. We show that optimal regulation of mortgage leverage must weigh losses from defaults against under-provision of credit due to adverse selection.