In American Bonds: A Pre-History of a Crisis (advanced contract, Princeton University Press), Quinn investigates the effect of political institutions on mortgage markets. Drawing from a mix of original archival research and secondary sources, the study begins with the first national credit policy in the 1780s and ends with a policy change in 1968 that laid the foundation for our current system built around mortgage securitization. Comparing time periods, she finds that across generations and regardless of political affiliation, government officials have used land sales, housing, and credit to sidestep fractured and contentious political institutions, including the separation of powers and debt limits.

This study reveals how political institutions affect the ways that government officials come to be creative participants in markets.

It reveals how competing moral visions of the American political economy became written in the deep structures of lending institutions, from farmers’ cooperatives to mortgage bonds.

And it reveals how Americans have repeatedly turned to land, housing, and credit in an elusive search for widespread economic opportunity that comes without the attendant costs of political conflict, financial risk, or large-scale redistribution.

This book contains research on the federal credit programs, with support from the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Some findings from this research have been discussed in the New York Times Magazine. Related work includes:

LBJ HUD from Archive

  • “Political Fractures, Market Bonds: Budget Politics as a Generative Constraint in the Johnson Administration.” (Under review)
  • “Conduits of the Credit State: Toward a Sociology of Federal Credit Programs in the United States.” (Under review)
  • 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.
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