Chip Case on bubbles and the housing market
Chip Case is perhaps best known for the Case-Shiller Index, tracking housing values on a quarterly basis. In the October issue of Land Lines, he shares his latest projects and thoughts on the current state of the housing market, which he describes as cautiously optimistic. "The numbers seem to indicate that the housing sector is stabilizing and showing signs of slow but positive growth," he says. "The housing sector composes only about 6 percent of the country’s GDP, but it has been enormously important in the past. Its recovery would certainly help the economy come back from the devastating effects of the recession."
Case is currently working on a paper with Robert Shiller about the effect of people’s expectations on the housing market in 1988 and during the period from 2003 to 2012. "Shiller and I collected questionnaires from people who had purchased or sold a house at some point during those calendar years. We used more than 5,000 questionnaires to create a dataset that allows us to better understand the nature of the recent housing bubble and to pinpoint the beginning of shifts in expectations. It gives us a way to quantify and analyze various expectations about the housing market and to determine how those expectations play a role in decision making.
"We can see, for example, that in 2005 the goal of owning a house began to fade from the American dream. This type of shift is culturally and economically significant. When it occurs in conjunction with the inertia of people’s expectations, we begin to see volatility in the housing market. And if the swing is strong enough, we also see that volatility may affect the national economy. Since the price of a house includes all rights and resources tied to that piece of land, expectations about the market and access to future rights and resources play a role in determining the market value of the house. The market value in turn affects the amount of tax levied on the property. The relationship between market expectations and the property tax is complex; the research that Shiller and I are doing will provide some insight."
Case is a founding partner in the real estate research firm, Fiserv Case Shiller Weiss, Inc., and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Depositors Insurance Fund of Massachusetts. He is a member of the Standard and Poors Index Advisory Committee, the Academic Advisory Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and the Board of Advisors of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard University. He has served as a member of the boards of directors of the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC), Century Bank, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association. He was also an associate editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives and the Journal of Economics Education. He is author or coauthor of five books including Principles of Economics, Economics and Tax Policy, and Property Taxation: The Need for Reform, and he has published numerous articles in professional journals. Principles of Economics, a basic text coauthored with Ray C. Fair and Sharon Oster, is in its tenth edition.