Working Papers

2012-25 | April 2013


House Lock and Structural Unemployment


A recent decline in internal migration in the United States may have been caused in part by falling house prices, through the “lock in” effects of financial constraints faced by households whose housing debt exceeds the market value of their home. I analyse the relationship between such “house lock” and the elevated levels and persistence of unemployment during the recent recession and its aftermath, using data for the years 2008-11. Because house lock is likely to extend job search in the local labour market for homeowners whose home value has declined, I focus on differences in unemployment duration between homeowners and renters across geographic areas differentiated by the severity of the decline in home prices. The empirical analyses rely on microdata from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) files and an econometric method that enables the estimation of individual and aggregate covariate effects on unemployment durations using repeated cross-section data. I do not uncover systematic evidence to support the house-lock hypothesis.

Download PDF (pdf, 292.87 kb)