Sickening Foreclosures

A New York Times op-ed today by Craig Pollack and political scientist Julia Lynch discusses new research demonstrating the health effects of foreclosures:

A growing body of research shows that foreclosure itself harms the health of families and communities. In our 2008 survey of 250 people undergoing foreclosure in the Philadelphia area, 32 percent reported missing doctor’s appointments and 48 percent said they let prescriptions go unfilled, significantly higher rates than others in their community. A paper released last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that people living in high-foreclosure areas in New Jersey, Arizona, California and Florida were significantly more likely than those in less hard-hit neighborhoods to be hospitalized for conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure.

More than one-third of homeowners in our study had symptoms of major depression. The N.B.E.R. study found significantly more suicide attempts in high-foreclosure neighborhoods. For every 100 foreclosures, it found a 12 percent increase in anxiety-related emergency-room visits and hospitalizations by adults under 50.

The Times piece doesn’t provide links to the actual research, but an article by Pollack and Lynch is here and the NBER paper by Janet Currie and Erdal Terkin is here. The policy conclusions are important:
[..] the settlement negotiations with the financial services industry over mortgage fraud and abuse should include money for health care. Millions of Americans are locked into mortgages they can’t afford. If we can’t help them stay in their homes, the least we can do is help them stay alive.


5 Responses to Sickening Foreclosures

  1. Andrew Gelman October 3, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    I don’t disagree with this, but . . . I think that we as a society owe just as much to people who never took out a mortgage. The whole “helping people stay in their homes” thing seems to be conflating two things:
    1. Having a place to live.
    2. “Owning” your home (which can involve owing a couple hundred thousand dollars to a bank).
    Item 1 is great; item 2 can be fine too but hardly seems necessary. I’m not blaming people for not being able to afford their mortgages—income fluctuations happen—but I am blaming politicians, journalists, social scientists, and others for treating high mortgages as the norm.

    • idiot October 4, 2011 at 12:55 am #

      You’re making the implication that it’s the act of living in a home that makes people more healthier, not the act of avoiding foreclosure (which could cause major stress and anxiety outside of that of having to relocate).

      Perhaps one way to avoid foreclosures is to avoid owning homes to begin with.

      • Andrew Gelman October 4, 2011 at 10:22 am #

        I’m not making any such implication, I’m just bothered by the focus on homeowners (or, to put it more accurately, on people who borrowed money for big mortgages). The quote above was, “he settlement negotiations with the financial services industry over mortgage fraud and abuse should include money for health care.” Maybe some money should go to health care for people who rented and never benefited from all the easy credit and tax breaks that were given for mortgages.

        • matt w October 4, 2011 at 11:13 am #

          But those people weren’t specifically defrauded by the financial services industry. I agree that we should lessen our tilt toward homeowning versus renting, but renters aren’t stakeholders in these particular negotiations.

          It’d be interesting to see a similar study on the effects of evictions.

          • Scott Monje October 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

            A lot of renters are suffering because their landlords went belly up, a circumstance for which they carry no blame whatsoever.