Chart: Frequency of Alan Greenspan's Laughter Predicted the Housing Bubble

In the infamous transcript of the Federal Reserve's first meeting in 2006, the word "[Laughter]" appeared at least 45 times. In one case, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan mocked his fellow economists' ability to predict the future, and the board laughed. Two years later, the global economy fell apart due to a housing meltdown that many Fed economists noted, but discounted. I counted the top ten most ironic laugh lines of the meeting here.

The Daily Stag Hunt did one better: It counted the word "[Laughter]" in every Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) transcript between 2001 and 2006 -- the bubble years for the housing market. Then they graphed the results.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_606w/WashingtonPost/Content/Blogs/ezra-klein/StandingArt/FOMC%20Funnies%20v2.0.jpg?uuid=Rl7D6EN-EeGuleP9QvU3_w

Does that picture remind you of something? Here's a look at home prices between 2001 and 2006:

case shiller 1.png
Pull back the lens, and here's what happened to home prices when the laughter stopped:

case shiller 2.png

FOMC laughter: Totally random incidence of economic giggling, or the very best coincident indicator we have? You be the judge.



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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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