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Letters: Mortgages And The 1940 Census

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Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish read emails from listeners about mortgage barriers for home buyers and census data from 1940.


Time now to read from your emails. And first, about my conversation yesterday with NPR's Chris Arnold. We talked about why it's difficult these days to get a mortgage or to refinance one.


CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: How much is your house worth? That's a subjective question, and it's going to be a subjective number, and the person who gets to decide that is...

SIEGEL: Some guy with a camera, from what I can tell.

ARNOLD: Right. And that guy is the home appraiser. And the rules have changed governing these home appraisers. It used to be that the bank itself, or your lender, could have their favorite home appraiser who knew your neighborhood really well and could pinpoint exactly what your home is worth. But during the housing bubble that led to all kinds of shenanigans with shady lenders hiring shady appraisers, and they would inflate prices.


Upon hearing this, Bruce Carr of Garden Grove, California, felt compelled to defend appraisers. He writes: Remember that appraisers were and are the only ones in the entire mortgage process who would behoove to tell the truth. The lender wants one thing, the homeowner or borrower wants one thing, the government may want one thing, but the appraiser tells them all their professional, studied, considered and learned opinion of value. What happens with those numbers is irrelevant to the appraiser.

SIEGEL: Mr. Carr also took issue with my characterization of appraisers. He writes: Mr. Siegel, really, would you refer to the person who came to appraise your fine art, your fine china, your antique cars or your heirlooms as some guy with a camera, as in who did you talk to from NPR, honey? I don't know, some guy with a microphone.

CORNISH: We also have a correction to make. On Monday, we said that the 1940 census was the first to have processed its information on punched cards. But several of you wrote in to say not so, including Michael Geselowitz, director of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers History Center at Rutgers. He writes: Actually, the first census to use punched card equipment to tabulate the results was 1890.

SIEGEL: And he emphasizes that statement with three exclamation points before linking us to his center's wiki on punched card equipment.

CORNISH: There, we read this: Punched card tabulating equipment, invented and developed by Herman Hollerith to process data from the United States Census of 1890, was the first mechanized means for compiling and analyzing statistical information.

SIEGEL: And who was Herman Hollerith? An American statistician who founded one of the companies that would become IBM. He also sported one mighty fine handlebar mustache.

CORNISH: Send us your comments at, just click on Contact Us.

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