Karl Case, co-creator of the Case-Shiller index, dies

Economist and scholar on housing bubbles pioneered a way to measure home prices

Jul.July 19, 2016 01:00 PM

Karl Case, an economist who pioneered the study of housing bubbles and co-created the influential Case-Shiller home prices index, died Friday. He was 69.

Nicknamed “Chip,” Case was an economics professor at Wellesley College for 34 years. In 1987, when looking into local home price dynamics, he teamed up with Yale economist Robert Shiller, who had been analyzing stock-market bubbles. The two combined forces to study housing bubbles, coming up with a system to measure price fluctuations. 

“There was at that time a widespread belief in market efficiency supported by apparent efficiency in the stock market, and there was a general willingness to extend that conclusion to the housing market,” Shiller told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday. “That’s what got us going.”

Now a mainstay in real estate analytics, the Case-Shiller index played an important role in illustrating the U.S. housing boom of the 2000s. Today, it has expanded to cover 20 major U.S. cities and a national composite index.

A New York City native, Case served in the U.S. Army before getting a doctorate in economics from Harvard University in 1976, according to the Journal. He became a popular speaker at his alma mater in his later years.

Case had been suffering from cancer and Parkinson’s disease, according to the newspaper. He is survived by his wife, daughter, brother, half-brother and two grandchildren.

At a 2014 conference, Case composed a poem recalling his first home purchase, for $54,000.

“I was glad that I bought … I remember the thought / ‘This may not be fair but it’s nice,’” he wrote. [WSJ]Cathaleen Chen

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