Professor behind well-known Case-Shiller Housing Index remembered
Oct 5, 2016
The late economist Karl Case (pictured above) is known to many as the co-creator of The Case-Shiller Housing Index, one of the most widely-used measures of housing prices in the United States. But to his former economics students, he was affectionately known as “Chip.”
Case, who co-founded the index in the 1980s, died on July 15, 2016 at the age of 69. Of the 4,000 students he taught at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, many recall his love of teaching and friendship during his 34 years at the school.
Suchitra Saxena, who graduated from Wellesley in 1998, majored in economics and took a public finance seminar taught by Case. She recalls that Case and his wife invited the entire class to dinner at their home on top of hosting international students each year for a meal or two.
“I still perk up every time I hear the Case-Shiller Index mentioned on the news,” says Saxena, who recently completed a doctorate in education leadership at Harvard University.
How the Index Came to Be
During the 1980s, Case was studying a housing bubble in New England when he eventually began working with economist Robert Shiller of Yale University. In 1991, the pair formed a company with Allan Weiss, called Case Shiller Weiss, which produced the index. The company was purchased by Fiserv, an information-management company, in 2002, according to The Wall Street Journal. In 2013, data company CoreLogic acquired Case-Shiller from Fiserv.
“At the time, Case and Shiller developed the repeat sales pricing technique,” according to S&P Dow Jones, referring to the repeat sales of single-family homes. “This methodology is recognized as the most reliable means to measure housing price movements and is used by other home price index publishers, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency.”
S&P Dow Jones Indices has calculated the data collected across the U.S. since 2006, while CoreLogic began providing the data in the last year. Today, The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices measure average change in single-family home prices in 20 major metropolitan areas monthly.
Some graduates recall that Case would sometimes make light in class about having Parkinson’s disease. He retired from teaching in 2010. The college and his family will host a special memorial celebration for him this month.
“He was lively, always smiling and joking around, and clearly really enjoyed teaching and being part of the Wellesley community,” Saxena, now a consultant, says.
Among the many groups he supported, Case was an avid fan of the college’s athletic teams.
“My sophomore year roommate was on the basketball team, and I would see [Chip] at every Wellesley athletic event I attended,” Saxena says.
Saxena returned to the college campus for her 15-year reunion and caught the end of the alumnae open house hosted by the economics department.
“I found Chip standing in the corner of the Economics department hallway, swamped by a crowd of former students, all waiting to reconnect with him, share updates from their lives, and talk finance,” she says.
“His influence on and connection with the thousands of Wellesley students who he taught and mentored are his real lasting legacy.”
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