Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teaching the Financial Crisis: Resources

I have referred a few times to the course that I'm teaching on the financial crisis this semester.  Several property profs have contacted me off-line for ideas about materials to use in incorporating a perspective on the financial crisis in the property class itself.  The problem with teaching the financial crisis is not that there isn't any material -- it is perhaps that there is too much material, much of it rich and detailed and difficult to adapt to a brief summary.  Here are a few ideas on resources that you may be able to use.

If you are interested in the events from May-October 2008 (the failure of Bear Sterns, the nationalization of Fannie and Freddie, the failure of Lehman, and TARP), the best option is Frontline's 1-hour show "Inside the Meltdown."  You can purchase the DVD from PBS, or watch the piece streaming on its site.  There is additional material on the site, including a timeline and uncut interviews from key players.

For a more dramatic version of the same events, you could watch HBO's adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail.  The Frontline piece is much better.

If you are interested in the subprime aspects of the debacle, there are several options.  I would recommend having students read a few chapters from Alyssa Katz's Our Lot: How Real Estate Came To Own Us (particularly chapters 3, 5, and the epilogue) in conjunction with an excerpt from Michael Lewis' The Big Short, or his piece in Portfolio, which is adapted from the Big Short.  The website of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission also has a wealth of material, including a very good dissection of a 2006 Citigroup CDO filled with subprime mortgages originated by New Century.  The FCIC's "Story of a Security" includes all of the original documentation and most of the material is intimidating, but the overview tells the story well.  The graphics tab of the FCIC site also has some nice one-sheets near the end that help explain how CDOs work.

One final option, which again focuses on the subprime aspects of the financial crisis, is Episode 4 of Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money series on PBS.  Again, you can stream the films online for free.  This piece focuses on the historical evolution of the U.S. housing market since the Great Depression.  It may work well for homework in a Property class because it is accessible and provides some useful historical perspective. 

If anyone has other suggestions about materials, please share them in the comments.  In particular, the focus of my class has been very American-centric.  I would love to locate some accessible materials to help the students understand the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and other global aspects of the financial crisis.

Tanya Marsh


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There was that cartoon powerpoint that was going around a couple of years ago, "The Subprime Primer." The stick figures give a surprisingly good explanation of the issues, though I don't use it in class due to the cuss words at the end. http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2008/03/subprime-primer.html

Posted by: Matt Festa | Oct 20, 2011 9:15:29 AM

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