Putting $1T Subprime Mortgage Losses in Perspective

by: Mark J. Perry

I'm in Las Vegas at Freedom Fest 2008 and heard Steve Forbes speak yesterday. In his talk, he put the subprime mortgage meltdown in perspective by comparing the global subprime losses of $1 trillion (Reuters story here) to the $56 trillion of U.S. household net worth. Sure, $1 trillion is a very significant loss, but it's relatively insignificant compared to the significant value of U.S. household wealth, less than 2%.

George Soros is characterizing the subprime mortgage situation as "the most severe since the Great Depression." I'm not sure there is data on household net worth in the 1930s, but I'm pretty sure the stock market losses and the losses from 9,000 bank failures (about 1/3 of all banks) in the 1930s was a lot bigger than 2%.