Federal housing finance policy and mortgage-backed securities have gained widespread attention in recent years because of the 2008 financial crisis, but government credit has been part of American life since the nation’s founding. Sarah L. Quinn
’s new book dissects the political and social development of these policies in American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation
(Princeton University Press, 2019). Quinn is associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington.
From the 1780s, when national land credit policy was established, to the postwar foundations of our current housing finance system, Quinn examines the evolution of securitization and federal credit programs. American Bonds
shows that since the Westward expansion, the U.S. government has used financial markets to manage America’s complex social divides, and politicians and officials across the political spectrum have turned to land sales, home ownership, and credit to provide economic opportunity without the appearance of market intervention or direct wealth redistribution.