¿Qué provocó la crisis inmobiliaria en Estados Unidos? El precio de la gasolina, por supuesto.

Un nuevo paper* de Sexton et al (2012) y publicado por el UCE3 (University of California Center for Energy and Environmental Economics) propone que la razón por la que estalló la crisis inmobiliaria de Estados Unidos en 2007 fue el incremento no anticipado en el precio de la gasolina.

Si bien hay un consenso cuasi universal que dice que la causa de la crisis financiera del 2007 fue el colapso inmobiliario en EUA, no existe una explicación más o menos aceptada de lo que causó dicho colapso en primer lugar:

“Considerable research has posited that the housing boom was fueled variably by new mortgage products, lax lending practices, monetary easing, and federal housing policy–factors that extended home ownership to a new class of borrowers characterized by low incomes, high leverage, and low credit worthiness (see Mayer 2011 for a survey). They produced a housing market that by 2005 was susceptible to collapse. But if housing prices had continued to climb instead of turning down, they would have concealed weaknesses in the market as homeowners could have withdrawn equity from their homes to finance debt obligations. Easy credit, then, could not have triggered the collapse.”

Una combinación de factores, entre ellos los bajos precios de la gasolina por un período de tiempo extendido, contribuyeron al crecimiento del mercado inmobiliario. Cuando los precios del petróleo aumentaron, y por consiguiente, de la gasolina, los costos de vivir en los suburbios de EU se modificaron radicalmente:

“Low energy prices during the housing boom, in combination with lax lending practices and new mortgage products, made suburban houses affordable to a new class of homeowners characterized by low incomes, high leverage, low credit worthiness, and long work commutes. As a result, housing markets by 2005 were fragile. When oil prices more than doubled between late 2005 and mid-2008, peaking at a record high $129 per barrel in July and sending gas prices to $4.15 per gallon, the calculus of suburban living changed.”

El aumento imprevisto en el costo de viajar a los suburbios desató una cadena de eventos que culminarían con el default en el pago de las hipotecas para aquellos con menores ingresos (que, casualmente, vivían más alejados de sus centros de trabajo):

“High commute costs made typical homes less valuable and mortgages less affordable for homeowners characterized by lower average incomes than urban counterparts. Some households could no longer meet mortgage obligations and others walked away from mortgage debt that exceeded the deflated market values of their homes.”

Y esto tuvo un efecto magnificado para la economía:

High rates of default induced shocks in financial markets characterized by excessive leverage. Data from the housing crisis of 2007-08 were used to illustrate the theory of this paper. They showed that the earliest and most significant reductions in home values occurred in suburbs with relatively low median household incomes. The rate of foreclosure increased with distance from the city center.”

Finalmente, ofrece una predicción que, hasta el momento, parece explicar la relativa lentitud de recuperación del mercado inmobiliario y de la economía de EUA:

Amid expectations of a high energy-price future, suburban housing markets are expected to languish as high commute costs fundamentally alter the calculus of living away from city centers. In contrast, urban home prices are expected to recover more quickly from collapse as demand for proximity to the central business district increases. High commute costs shift the suburban boundary inward, meaning homes on the suburban fringe are likely to be abandoned and future housing development is likely to be vertical rather than horizontal.”

 treehugger.com

Fuente: Sexton, S., J. Wu, y D. Zilberman (2012), “How High Gas Prices Triggered the Housing Crisis: Theory and Empirical Evidence”, UC Center for Energy and Environmental Economics.

*Pueden encontrar el paper completo en la siguiente liga.

Anuncios

Vínculos marginales #42

  1. Un traje de Red Bull para saltar desde la orilla del espacio. (Popular Science)
  2. El futuro de las televisoras locales y su relación con las transmisiones en línea. (Washington Post)
  3. ¡Las personas atractivas viajan gratis! Una red social de citas para viajeros.
  4. Un artículo sobre la comida, las distintas dietas y su impacto sobre el consumo total de energía. (The Oil Drum)
  5. ¿Cómo detectar si alguien lleva un arma de mano escondida? (Visual.ly)

Una conversación entre un físico y un economista (hablando de los límites físicos del crecimiento económico)

Una nota muy interesante, escrita desde el punto de vista del físico, acerca de los límites físicos al crecimiento económico indefinido. Reproduzco aquí algunos de los fragmentos más interesantes. La nota completa pueden revisarla acá.

Acerca de los límites del uso de la energía en la Tierra:

“(Físico) At that 2.3% growth rate, we would be using energy at a rate corresponding to the total solar input striking Earth in a little over 400 years. We would consume something comparable to the entire sun in 1400 years from now. By 2500 years, we would use energy at the rate of the entire Milky Way galaxy—100 billion stars! I think you can see the absurdity of continued energy growth. 2500 years is not that long, from a historical perspective. We know what we were doing 2500 years ago. I think I know what we’re not going to be doing 2500 years hence…

And you can see the thermodynamic point in this scenario as well. If we tried to generate energy at a rate commensurate with that of the Sun in 1400 years, and did this on Earth, physics demands that the surface of the Earth must be hotter than the (much larger) surface of the Sun. Just like 100 W from a light bulb results in a much hotter surface than the same 100 W you and I generate via metabolism, spread out across a much larger surface area.”

Tal vez el crecimiento económico, medido en crecimiento del PIB, se limite a ‘tan sólo’ algunos siglos (ignorando por un momento ‘rompimientos’ como guerras o pandemias):

“Even early economists like Adam Smith foresaw economic growth as a temporary phase lasting maybe a few hundred years, ultimately limited by land (which is where energy was obtained in that day). If humans are successful in the long term, it is clear that a steady-state economic theory will far outlive the transient growth-based economic frameworks of today. Forget Smith, Keynes, Friedman, and that lot. The economists who devise a functioning steady-state economic system stand to be remembered for a longer eternity than the growth dudes.”

Pero el crecimiento económico, admite el físico, no necesariamente se circunscribe a una medida por el crecimiento en términos de PIB:

“(Físico) Under a model in which GDP is fixed—under conditions of stable energy, stable population, steady-state economy: if we accumulate knowledge, improve the quality of life, and thus create an unambiguously more desirable world within which to live, doesn’t this constitute a form of economic growth?”

Es indudable que el crecimiento económico así expresado, necesariamente tendrá límites físicos, incluso con cambios tecnológicos. Sin embargo, el físico omite 2 grandes variables: a) ‘rompimientos’ temporales como guerras o pandemias y b) exploración y colonización de otros planetas. Además, asume una población relativamente estable en el estado estacionario, algo que no se cumpliría en el caso de b). De todas maneras, es un ejercicio mental interesante.

Según las leyes de termodinámica, el crecimiento en el uso de energía, no podrá continuar indefinidamente (nos cocinaríamos primero). Fuente: NASA Visible Earth