New evidence that being underwater on your house limits labor mobility

Rortybomb has long argued there is no significant effect.  I’ve never had a horse in this race, in any case here are new results from Plamen Nenov, on the job market from MIT:

The present paper studies the impact of a housing bust on regional labor reallocation and the labor market. I document a novel empirical fact, which suggests that, by increasing the fraction of households with negative housing equity, a housing bust hinders interregional mobility. I then study a multi-region economy with local labor and housing markets and worker reallocation. The model can account for the positive co-movement of relative house prices and unemployment with gross out-migration and negative co-movement with in-migration observed in the cross section of states. A housing bust creates debt overhang for some workers, which distorts their migration decisions and increases aggregate unemployment in the economy. This adverse effect is amplified when regional slumps are particularly deep as in the recent U.S. recession. In a calibrated version of the model, I find that the regional reallocation effect of the housing bust can account for between 0.2 and 0.5 percentage points of aggregate unemployment and 0.4 and 1.2 percentage points of unemployment in metropolitan areas experiencing deep local recessions in 2010. Finally, I study the labor market effects of two policies proposed for addressing the U.S. mortgage crisis.

I’m still not taking sides here, just fyi.


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