Ballooning finance

Bruno Biais, Jean-Charles Rochet, Paul Woolley, 21 August 2014

The Global Crisis has intensified debates over the merits of financial innovation and the optimal size of the financial sector. This column presents a model in which the growth of finance is driven by the development of a financial innovation. The model can help explain the securitised mortgage debacle that triggered the latest crisis, the tech bubble in the late 1990s, and junk bonds in the 1980s. A striking implication of the model is that regulation should be toughest when finance seems most robust and when innovations are waxing strongly.

Nominal GDP targeting for developing nations

Pranjul Bhandari, Jeffrey Frankel, 21 August 2014

Central banks, especially in developing countries, still seek transparent and credible communication. Yet signalling intentions through forward guidance or commitment sometimes creates undesirable constraints. This column argues that central bank pronouncements phrased in terms of nominal GDP are less likely to run afoul of the supply and trade shocks so common in developing countries, compared to pronouncements phrased in terms of inflation.

How to jumpstart the Eurozone economy

Francesco Giavazzi, Guido Tabellini, 21 August 2014

The stagnating Eurozone economy requires policy action. This column argues that EZ leaders should agree a coordinated 5% tax cut, extension of budget deficit targets by 3 or 4 years, and issuance of long-term public debt to be purchased by the ECB without sterilisation.

Maternal grief and child outcomes

Sandra E. Black, Paul Devereux, Kjell G. Salvanes, 20 August 2014

Adverse health or nutrition shocks to pregnant women can have significant and often long-lasting effects on the outcomes of their children, but much less is known about the effects of psychological stresses. This column discusses recent research on the effect of stress induced by the death of a parent while pregnant on the short- and long-run outcomes of children in Norway. Maternal bereavement has small but statistically significant adverse effects on birth outcomes – especially for boys – but there is no evidence of any long-run adverse effects.

The economics of density: Evidence from the Berlin Wall

Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt, Stephen Redding, Daniel M. Sturm, Nikolaus Wolf, 20 August 2014

Economic activity is highly unevenly distributed across space. Understanding what drives the agglomeration and dispersion is important for many economic and policy questions. This column describes a theoretical model of internal city structure incorporating agglomeration and dispersion and heterogeneity in local fundamentals. The authors use the division and reunification of Berlin as a natural experiment. Their findings show that both heterogeneity in locational fundamentals and agglomeration forces are important in shaping a city’s internal structure.

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