Benjamin Keys

Benjamin Keys
  • Rowan Family Foundation Associate Professor, Associate Professor of Real Estate

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    432 Vance Hall
    3733 Spruce Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19104-6301

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

Associate Professor of Real Estate, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2019-present

Assistant Professor of Real Estate, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2016 – 2019.

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


  • Caitlin Gorback and Benjamin Keys (Draft), Global Capital and Local Assets: House Prices, Quantities, and Elasticities.

    Abstract: Interconnected capital markets allow liquid global capital to flow into illiquid local assets. This paper documents how international capital impacts U.S. housing markets. Other countries introduced foreign-buyer taxes meant to deter Chinese housing investment beginning in 2011. We first show house prices grew 8 percentage points more in U.S. zipcodes with high foreign-born Chinese populations after 2011. Second, we use the international tax policy changes as a U.S. housing demand shock and estimate local house price and quantity elasticities with respect to international capital. We find that a 1% increase in instrumented foreign capital raises house prices at the zip code level by 0.55%, and housing supply by 0.005%. Finally, we use the two elasticities to construct a local house price elasticity of supply. We find that among the largest 100 CBSAs, supply elasticities vary between 0.01 and 0.5, suggesting that local housing markets are highly inelastic in the short run.

  • Benjamin Keys (Forthcoming), The Credit Market Consequences of Job Displacement, Review of Economics and Statistics.

  • Benjamin Keys, Marco DiMaggio, Amir Kermani, Tomasz Piskorski, Rodney Ramcharan, Amit Seru, Vincent W. Yao (2018), Monetary Policy Pass-Through: Mortgage Rates, Household Consumption, and Voluntary De-Leveraging, Prior Version (Keys, Piskorski, Seru, Yao) featured in NBER Digest, March 2015.

  • Benjamin Keys and Jialan Wang (Forthcoming), Minimum Payments and Debt Paydown in Consumer Credit Cards, Journal of Financial Economics.

  • 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.

Awards and Honors

  • Wharton Teaching Excellence Reward Recipient, 2018

In the News

Knowledge @ Wharton


In the News

Bye Bye, Barneys? Why Luxury Is the Latest Retail Casualty

Rising commercial rents and the demise of the department store model pose an existential threat to Barneys and other icons of high-end retail.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2019/08/27
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Awards and Honors

Wharton Teaching Excellence Reward Recipient 2018
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