In American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation (under contract, Princeton University Press), Quinn makes the case that the U.S. government has long used financial markets to manage the nation’s complex and shifting social divides. Drawing from extensive historical research, this book reveals how politicians and government officials have turned to land, home ownership, and credit in an elusive search for ways to avoid economic redistribution while still providing widespread economic opportunity.

Starting with the founding period and ending in the post war era, this book traces the evolution of two powerful, behind-the-scenes forces in American financial markets: securitization and federal credit programs. These highly-technical systems were never just ways of moving money, but also part of how Americans made decisions about what they can and should owe one another. Over time, government officials embraced credit as a political tool that allowed them to navigate a fractured political system. They became creative, game-changing participants in U.S. markets. This book shows that credit programs are not intermittent, marginal, or even limited to addressing flaws in credit markets. They supported the growth of powerful industries, from railroads and farms, to housing and finance. Credit programs have been used for disaster relief, foreign policy, and military efforts. They were early-adopters and promoters of amortized mortgages, consumer credit, lending abroad, venture capital investment, and mortgage securitization. Overall, this sociological analysis of U.S. financial history illuminates America’s unusual developmental state and its market-heavy social policies – and how Americans got hooked on finance.

LBJ HUD from Archive

  • ““The Miracles of Bookkeeping”: How Budget Politics Link Fiscal Policies and Financial Markets (American Journal of Sociology, 2017).
  • The Credit Mines (Contexts, 2010). A book review of Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us, by Alyssa Katz and Collateral Damaged: The Marketing of Consumer Debt to America, by Charles R. Geisst.