The Big Short, a movie about the real estate bubble and the resulting financial meltdown, is up for an Academy Award for “Best Picture.” So it’s a good time to reflect on the devastation that resulted from that crisis. One of the places that was hit worst was Stockton, Calif., a city of around 300,000 located between San Francisco and Sacramento. At the height of the recession nearly one in ten homes in Stockton was in foreclosure.

The problem became so bad that the city itself...

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