Benjamin Keys

Benjamin Keys
  • Assistant Professor of Real Estate

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    1461 Steinberg-Dietrich Hall
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: household finance, real estate, applied econometrics, labor economics, urban economics.

Links: CV, Personal Website



Ph.D. in Economics, University of Michigan, 2009.

M.A. in Economics, University of Michigan, 2005.

B.A. in Economics and Political Science, Swarthmore College, 2001.


Academic Positions Held

Assistant Professor of Real Estate, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2016 – present.

Assistant Professor, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, 2011 – 2016.


Other Positions

Faculty Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2016 – present.

Fellow, Center for Financial Security, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015 – present.

Co-Director, Kreisman Initiative on Housing Law and Policy, University of Chicago, 2014 – 2016.

Visiting Assistant Professor, Stern School of Business, New York University, Spring 2016.

Economist, Division of Research and Statistics, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DC, 2009 – 2011.


Professional Leadership

Associate Editor, Review of Financial Studies, 2016 – present.

Associate Editor, Management Science, 2016 – present.

Member, Academic Research Council, Housing Finance Policy Center, Urban Institute, 2015 – present.

Continue Reading


  • Benjamin Keys (Work In Progress), The Credit Market Consequences of Job Displacement.

    Abstract: This paper studies the role of job displacement in the household bankruptcy decision.  Using an event-study methodology, I find that households in the NLSY are over three times more likely to file for bankruptcy in the year immediately following a job loss. Heightened bankruptcy risk then declines in magnitude but persists for two to three years.  These findings are conditional on the financial benefit to filing and consistent with a dynamic forward-looking model where persistent negative income shocks increase a household's likelihood of filing for bankruptcy both immediately and in the future.  Aggregate patterns in job loss and bankruptcy are also consistent with the micro model. Using county-level data and a shift-share instrument for demand-driven job changes, I similarly find that 1,000 job losses are associated with a tripling of the county bankruptcy rate. In addition, the loss of a manufacturing job, a proxy for a more persistent separation, is 40 percent more likely to lead to bankruptcy than the loss of a non-manufacturing job.  The results suggest that unemployment spells can have significant long-term consequences on households' credit market outcomes.  

  • Benjamin Keys, Devin G Pope, Jaren C Pope (2016), Failure to Refinance, Journal of Financial Economics, 122 (3), pp. 482-499.

    Abstract: Households that fail to refinance their mortgage when interest rates decline lose out on substantial savings. Using a random sample of outstanding US mortgages in December 2010, we estimate that approximately 20% of unconstrained households for whom refinancing was optimal had not done so. The median household would save $160/month over the remaining life of the loan, for a total present-discounted value of forgone savings of $11,500, a particularly large consumer financial mistake. To shed light on possible mechanisms, we also provide results from a mail campaign targeted at a sample of homeowners who could benefit from refinancing.

  • Benjamin Keys, Erik Hurst, Amit Seru, Joseph S. Vavra (2016), Regional Redistribution through the US Mortgage Market, American Economic Review, 106 (10), pp. 2982-3028.

    Abstract: Regional shocks are an important feature of the US economy. Households' ability to self-insure against these shocks depends on how they affect local interest rates. In the United States, most borrowing occurs through the mortgage market and is influenced by the presence of government-sponsored enterprises (GSE). We establish that despite large regional variation in predictable default risk, GSE mortgage rates for otherwise identical loans do not vary spatially. In contrast, the private market does set interest rates which vary with local risk. We use a spatial model of collateralized borrowing to show that the national interest rate policy substantially affects welfare by redistributing resources across regions.  

  • Benjamin Keys and Neil Bhutta (2016), Interest Rates and Equity Extraction during the Housing Boom, American Economic Review, 106 (7), pp. 1742-1774.

    Abstract: Credit record panel data from 1999-2010 indicates that the likelihood of home equity extraction (borrowing, on average, about $40,000 against one's home) peaked in 2003 when mortgage rates reached historic lows. We estimate a 27 percent rise in extraction in response to a 100 basis point rate decline, and that house price growth amplifies this relationship. Differential responses to interest rates and home price appreciation by borrower age and credit score provide new evidence of financial frictions. Finally, equity extractions are associated with higher default risk, consistent with the use of borrowed funds for consumption or illiquid investment.


Past Courses


    This course provides an introduction to real estate with a focus on investment and financing issues. Project evaluation, financing strategies, investment decision making and capital markets are covered. No prior knowledge of the industry is required, but students are expected to rapidly acquire a working knowledge of real estate markets. Classes are conducted in a standard lecture format with discussion required. The course contains cases that help students evaluate the impact of more complex financing and capital markets tools used in real estate. There are case studies and two mid-terms, (depending on instructor). Cross-listed with FNCE 721.


Latest Research

Benjamin Keys (Work In Progress), The Credit Market Consequences of Job Displacement.
All Research

In the News

How Buyers Can Make the Most of a Tough Housing Market

The latest tax changes may steer people towards renting rather than owning a home, but for those who still want to buy, experts have some advice.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2018/04/13
All News