The Housing Bust: a Statistical Portrait

How a fast-changing mortgage market swamped the whole economy.

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Economists will eventually write volumes to explain where the Great Housing Bust of 2008 came from. But for now, a few choice statistics do a pretty handy job. James Barth and several colleagues at the nonprofit Milken Institute have written a number of studies that plumb the causes of the subprime meltdown and the ensuing damage. Some data points that help depict what has happened:

Percentage of all mortgages bundled into securities, 1994: 55.8 percent; 2007: 74.2 percent Percentage of all subprime mortgages packaged into securities, 1994: 31.6 percent; 2007: 92.8 percent

Percentage of mortgage originations that were subprime, 1994: 4.5 percent; 2006: 20.1 percent.

Increase in face value of subprime mortgages issued between 1994 and 2006: 1,700 percent

Share of mortgage originations by federally regulated savings institutions, 1987: 29.8 percent; 2006: 8 percent.

Share of mortgage originations by less -regulated mortgage brokers, 1987: 20 percent; 2006: 58 percent

Average annual rise in home-price value, 1990-1999: 3 percent; 2000-2006: 8.6 percent

U.S. homeownership rate, 1985: 63.5 percent; 2007: 68.2 percent

Ratio of the median home price to median household income, 1985: 3.2; 2006: 4.6

Household debt as a percentage of disposable income, 1985: 74.9 percent; 2006: 137 percent

Percentage of mortgage holders unable to tell if their loan includes an expanded "balloon payment," 2007: 30 percent

Percentage of mortgage holders unable to tell if their loan includes a prepayment penalty for refinancing within two years, 2007: 44 percent

Foreclosure rate on prime mortgages issued between January 1999 and July 2007: 2 percent; on subprime mortgages: 13.7 percent

Total cost of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, in 2007 dollars: $408 billion

Total estimated cost of the subprime crisis so far: $150 billion to $500 billion.

Note: All current figures are the latest available and may not refer to the entire calendar year.

Sources: Milken Institute; U.S. Census Bureau; Federal Reserve; Wholesale Access; 2007 Mortgage Market Statistical Annual; Inside Mortgage Finance; Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight; Federal Trade Commission; LoanPerformance

subprime mortgages
  • Rick Newman

    Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success and the co-author of two other books. Follow him on Twitter or e-mail him at

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