When the housing market crashed, the search was on for someone to blame: irresponsible homeowners, bankers, politicians who loosened regulations. Economist Paul Willen says it's not so simple

Many people made a killing as the housing market swelled, but understanding why it grew so large — and burst so dramatically — is more difficult.

According to Willen, it's a chicken-and-egg controversy: the market was either completely blindsided, or completely complicit in blindsiding itself. Willen's bottom line is that there's no way to know. The market is impossibly complex, and blaming any one group — homeowners, bankers, real estate agents, or lawmakers — doesn't shed any light on the issue, Willen says.


Paul Willen, research economist at the Boston Federal Reserve.