Where the Foreclosures Are

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With regard to the following chart in The New York Times, Ezra Klein writes “What we had is less a foreclosure problem than a foreclosures in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida problem. The way you get 42 states with foreclosure rates beneath the national average is that those last eight states are post-crash dystopias inhabited mainly by squatters and feral dogs. And the way eight states bring down the economy is that the foreclosed assets were heavily leveraged: The whole country might as well have been the Golden State given that Citibank would bet $56 dollars on every buck of California mortgages.”


Brian Beutler offers an important corrective to this, observing that “it’s important to keep in mind that this was all happening against a backdrop of rising national foreclosure rates.” And that’s right. Many states that had a below-average 2008 foreclosure rate have rates that would have been above average back in 2006 or any other more typical year.

But what I really want is some more fine-grained data. When I was at the Atlantic, we were able to put together a county-level map showing foreclosure rates (no reference to national averages), for my prescient charticle “There Goes the Neighborhood” in our January/February 2008 issue:


Unfortunately, the charticle was so prescient that the data is now hopelessly outdated. And I don’t really know how to get more updated data or make such a good-looking map. At any rate, back in that 2007 data you could see some trends in the county-level data that would be obscured in state-level data. Illinois had, at that time, a modest overall foreclosure problem but a pretty serious concentration in the immediate vicinity of Chicago. Metro Texas and rural Texas look like two different states on a county-by-county level. But California, at that time, had a pretty broad-based and systemic wave of foreclosures running through all the populated parts of the state.