Finally, it seems, the mainstream press is beginning to get it right.
Too bad it only took the better part of a decade.
Fortune published this gem on recent research that suggests the foreclosure crisis would have happened even without risky mortgages.
Chris Matthews’ balanced look at a working paper by Wharton economists Fernando Ferreira and Joseph Gyourko, finds that prime mortgage foreclosed at a greater pace than subprime from 1997 to 2012.
Click chart to expand:
The authors note: "The private label subprime mortgage-backed securities market did not really boom until late in the last housing cycle, so these data do not become nationally representative until the middle of the last decade."
However, by the time the bubble burst, the press found itself drawn, wrongly so, to the exciting, explosive "subprime" nomenclature.
In an interview with Matthews, Ferreira states that even putting 20% down for a mortgage won’t protect against widespread defaults when economic bubbles burst.
Here’s Matthews’ expert takeaway:
We can draw two conclusions from this data. One is that your chances of being foreclosed upon in the past decade was more a matter of timing than anything else. If you were a subprime borrower in, for instance 2002, who bought a bigger house than a more prudent and creditworthy borrower would have bought, chances are you would have been fine. But a prime borrower who did everything right—bought a house he could easily afford, with a large downpayment—but did so in 2006 would have had a higher chance of defaulting than the subprime borrower with better timing.
Matthews mentions at the end that the mortgage industry still lacks adequate tools to recognize bubble behavior, and even less the power to stop it from bursting. So, it doesn't really matter that the press gets it so wrong, as its impact is muted.
Furthermore, and more importantly, the research shows regulations do nothing to prevent this sort of housing phenomenon.
So, in short, even though we’ve now learned from history, we could still be doomed to repeat it.