My dissertation examines homeownership policies in the United States and Germany from a comparative, historical perspective. It is hard to overlook the increasingly vast presence of the American state in the home finance market. Since the early twentieth century, the U.S. has offered both billions of dollars in tax breaks for homeowners. The U.S. government also currently guarantees trillions of dollars in home mortgage debt. After WWII, the German state also supported homeownership in an attempt to create a nation of homeowners, offering them large-scale tax breaks and subsidies as part of social housing programs. Yet, the country eliminated these longstanding programs by the mid-2000s — a striking contrast with the U.S., where subsidies for homeowners are often labeled the third rail of politics. Today, the homeownership market in the U.S., the land of the free markets, is much more socialized than that of Germany, a social market economy.
I argue that the key to understanding these phenomena lies in the broader economic growth models of both countries, which have empowered certain policy coalitions over others in shaping homeownership benefits. In the consumption-led and credit-based U.S., where home finance is key to economic growth, the American growth model empowers a hegemonic homeownership coalition of political leaders and interest groups to defend and extend home finance subsidies. In export-oriented and savings-based Germany, where home finance is less important to economic growth, the growth model allowed for the creation of competing housing policy coalitions – one promoting homeownership subsidies and another privileging affordable rental housing. The political struggles between these rival coalitions resulted in major reforms scaling down home finance benefits over time.
I illustrate this argument in four empirical case studies. Two chapters discuss the political evolution of tax breaks for homeowners in Germany and the U.S. Two additional chapters focus on the development of American and German mortgage market subsidies, such as government guarantees or social housing programs. My dissertation draws on 2.5 years of fieldwork in the United States and Germany, including the analysis of primary archival documents, government records, original housing data, as well as dozens of interviews with government officials, interest groups, and housing experts in both countries.
Other Research Interests
In addition to my dissertation, my research has focused on regulatory issues in global finance. In particular, I have explored the role of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), a global regulatory body, in the international financial system. In an article in the Review of International Political Economy, I explain the historical and political origins of this body.
I have also developed a research interest in the German political economy and its role in Europe. In a series of articles, including in Politics & Society and Foreign Affairs (both written with Kimberly J. Morgan), we analyzed Germany’s economic performance during the recent financial crisis and the country’s role in the euro crisis.