Most Read: This Month
The long-lasting stagnation in Italy has often been explained by the country’s lost of competitiveness, but focus on total factor productivity has been scarce. This column discusses the effect of capital and labour misallocation on the productivity slowdown. Such misallocation could not result from labour rigidity, but could be due to limited ICT investment and penetration. Rigid non-meritocratic management practices can greatly affect ICT exploitation, and subsequently – overall productivity growth.
The economic divergence we observe today was existent even a thousand years ago. Thanks to recent work on historical data, we can now trace the economic development of different countries centuries back in the past. This column discusses the roots of the Great Divergence between European and Asian economies. The column argues that divergence is due to the differential impact of shocks that hit economies with different structural features.
The world is urbanising quickly but many cities are poorly located. Such misplacement is associated with bad access to the world markets and frequent natural disasters. This column explores historical evidence of French and English towns during the Roman Empire and in the Middle Ages. Path-dependency in the city locations explains the difference in their development and suggests relevant policymaking lessons.
The idea that there is a common tipping point in the relationship between public debt and economic growth is still widespread. However, this is likely due to a misinterpretation of the existing evidence. Once we allow for the relationship between debt and growth to be country-specific, there is limited evidence supporting the presence of a within-countries debt threshold.
The global crisis changed the face of monetary policy. This column, written by the IMF’s chief economist, reviews the main changes. It draws on contributions to a recent IMF conference on the topic.
Having promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure the survival of the euro, the ECB now faces the problem of record high unemployment combined with a strong currency. There is accumulating evidence that the ECB is more willing to fight currency appreciation than the Bundesbank would have been. Capital inflows have been a key source of recent upward pressure on the euro. Should this continue, the ECB may need to intervene more aggressively in order to promote economic recovery in the Eurozone.
Labour mobility is one of the keys to a successful currency union – be it within or across nations. This column discusses new evidence showing that the shock-absorbing role of migration has increased in Europe and declined in the US. During the Great Recession, European migration remained high – although not high enough given the vast differences across the Eurozone. Overall, Europe has strengthened this essential adjustment mechanism.
Except for the period 1992-2000, the dollar’s role as an international currency has been slowly declining since 1976. Since 2010, there has been another pause in this decline – somewhat surprising, given that the financial crisis began in the US, and given Congress’ recent flirtations with default. The dollar’s resilience as the world’s reserve currency is due to a lack of good alternatives – the euro has its own problems, and the yuan only accounts for 2.2% of forex transactions.
Higher asset prices increase the value of firms’ collateral, strengthen banks’ balance sheets, and increase households’ wealth. These considerations perhaps motivated the Federal Reserve’s intervention to support the housing market. However, higher housing prices may also lead banks to reallocate their portfolios from commercial and industrial loans to real-estate loans. This column presents the first evidence on this crowding-out effect. When housing prices increase, banks on average reduce commercial lending and increase interest rates, leading related firms to cut back on investment.
A key Millennium Development Goal was to halve the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day. This was met five years ahead of schedule, and the World Bank is promoting a new goal of ‘shared prosperity’ defined in terms of the growth rate of incomes in the bottom 40% of households. This column discusses research showing that there is a strong one-for-one relationship between overall growth and average income growth in the poorest quintiles. Overall growth is thus still important.
GDP can be estimated by measuring either expenditure or income. Since a penny spent is a penny earned, both methods should give the same answer, but there is substantial measurement error in both estimates. This column presents a new method of measuring US GDP that blends these two estimates. According to the new measure, GDP growth is about twice as persistent as the current headline measure implies. The new measure also makes the current recovery look stronger, especially in 2013.
Academic economists – especially in the US – are continuously evaluated, with salaries and promotions hanging on outcomes. This column argues that the methods – identified from a survey of economics department chairs – are likely to reduce the amount of research created, perpetuate inefficiently sized research teams, promote false authorship, and penalise honest researchers. They also provide departments with excessive leeway to engage in potentially capricious behaviour.
The views and theories on the impossible trinity are conflicting. This column discusses some of the theories and their potential drawbacks. It points out that the impossible trinity has policy relevance for advances economies because their currencies are often close substitutes, and exchange rates follow expectations. For emerging economies, however, the policies implied by the impossible trinity could not be sustained due to the instability of their financial markets.
There is widespread agreement that government protection of banks contributed to the financial crisis, leading to proposals to require banks to finance a larger share of their portfolios with equity instead of debt – thus forcing shareholders to absorb losses instead of taxpayers. This column argues that equity ratios relative to asset risk are what matter, not equity ratios per se. Although higher equity requirements for banks may be desirable, the costs of reduced loan supply should be taken into account.
Basel III is coming into focus. The fundamental logic of the regulatory changes seems sensible, but the devil is in the detail – empirical implementation. This column discusses a detailed quantitative study, incorporating analytical calculations, Monte Carlo simulations and results from observed data. It concludes that the Basel Committee has taken three and a half steps backwards and half a step forward. If implemented, the framework is likely to lead to less robust risk forecasts than current methodologies.
Predicting exchange rates is still an inexact science. Economic models perform poorly, and a plethora of alternative methods have been attempted. This column guides the reader through the state of the art, reviewing various predictors, models, and data specifications. Despite a large and divergent literature chasing this holy grail, the toughest benchmark remains the random walk without drift.
The most popular regulation against child labour is a ban against it. This column presents evidence from such a ban in India. Not only did the ban not reduce child labour, but it even increased it. The effects are concentrated among the poorest families. Therefore, policy reforms other than bans could be more effective in reducing child labour, and in improving the lives of children.
Since the advent of the Eurozone sovereign-debt crisis, economic commentators have drawn attention to macroeconomic imbalances within the Eurozone. This column presents evidence on the link between macroeconomic imbalances and differences in culture – or more specifically, interpersonal trust. A conservative estimatation suggests that a one standard-deviation increase in trust reduces macroeconomic imbalances by about a quarter of a standard deviation. Moreover, differences in interpersonal trust can explain a fifth of the variation in intra-Eurozone imbalances.
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is potentially important, but controversial because it is hard to identify and quantify. Recent research provides a framework to identify the impacts of policy uncertainty on firm decisions, and finds it has strong effects in the context of international trade. China’s WTO accession secured its most-favoured nation status in the US, and the evidence shows this reduction in uncertainty can explain a significant fraction of its export boom to the US.
Recently, there has been great concern among policymakers worldwide about rising food prices and increased food-price volatility. It is widely believed that oil and food prices have become closely linked after 2006, owing in part to a shift in US biofuel policies. This column presents evidence that challenges this conventional wisdom.
During the recent turmoil in the Eurozone, little attention has been paid to one of the euro’s founding objectives – price convergence. This column argues that the euro has in fact been very successful in this regard. In a study of the pricing behaviour of Apple, IKEA, H&M, and Zara, the authors find that price dispersion is 30–50% lower for countries in a currency union than for those with a fixed exchange rate.
Retrospective voting – voting for incumbents if one’s situation has improved under the politician’s watch – is a well-established pattern. This column shows that this pattern also applies when ‘improvement’ is measured by a subjective measure of well-being. Among the stark results discussed is the finding that newly widowed women are 10% less likely to be pro-incumbent than the control group.
Existing data show that the historically well-documented relationship between growth, competitiveness, and trade protectionism does not hold in the context of the recent financial crisis. This column presents new evidence that this relationship, in fact, holds. G20 governments continue to pursue trade-restrictive policies in a recession, or when their competitiveness deteriorates. This holds for a wide array of trade policies, including ‘murky’ protectionism.
The profound impact of the ICT revolution on the job market have been widely studied, but the effects of different types of technology can be heterogeneous and even contradictory. This column presents evidence that technologies providing access to stored data tend to empower front line workers, while communicative technologies put more power in the hands of managers.
During the Great Recession, advanced economies have not experienced the disinflation that has historically been associated with high unemployment. This column shows that using consumers’ (as opposed to forecasters’) inflation expectations restores the traditional Phillips curve relationship for recent years. Consumers’ inflation expectations are more responsive to oil prices than those of professional forecasters. The increase in oil prices between 2009 and 2012 may in fact have prevented the onset of pernicious deflationary dynamics.
Policymakers have long been concerned that large capital inflows are associated with asset-price booms. This column presents recent research showing that the composition of capital inflows also matters. The association between capital inflows and asset-price booms is about twice as strong for debt-related than for equity-related investment. Policymakers should therefore pay attention to the composition of capital inflows, since debt-related inflows may still undermine financial stability even if they do not result in an overall current-account deficit.
Though trade union density and its trends vary considerably across Western European countries, in most of them the current density has fallen down in comparison to 30 years ago. This column reviews some explanations for the decline of unionisation and discusses some of the challenges unions need to face. Union membership could still be stabilised because it is embedded in social, economic, and political structures of the western European countries.
Many studies find evidence of a growing income inequality in China. However, the majority of these studies may be constructing biased measures of inequality. This column presents evidence from a new study on how inequality in China is overstated if one ignores the spatial differences in the cost of living. With a booming urban housing market that displays a high degree of heterogeneity, accounting for spatial price differences is essential.
Based on statistical measures of different degrees of democracy vs. autocracy, this article briefly reviews the progress of democracy around the world during the past 212 years, and places democratic developments in Africa since 1960 in that context. Democracy is positively associated with education, which in turn is associated with lower fertility and greater longevity. Democracy is also associated with reduced corruption. Together, these effects suggest democracy should be good for growth – a hypothesis that is borne out by the data.
Revelations about American spying in Europe – and the backlash they have produced – threatens ongoing EU-US trade talks. This column assesses that threat, highlighting often-overlooked factors, not the least of which is the poor record of allowing security policy concerns to influence trade relations.
Individuals moving from long-term unemployment into work face a number of challenges. This column discusses the use of temporary in-work support during this transition. Recent experimental evidence has shown the potential for such support to have a positive long-term effect. It can increase not only employment entry but also employment retention, and so may provide a means of addressing the low pay, no pay cycle.
The gender gap in labour-force participation rates is still not closing up. Among other factors, cultural aspects may play a role. This column describes an experimental study, conducted with women from Italy, on the benefits of formal childcare on outcomes of children. Highly educated women are positively affected by the information about formal childcare. Low-educated mothers, however, do not increase their use of childcare facilities, or their labour supply.
Despite support from around 90% of US citizens, expanded background checks for gun purchases failed in the US Senate. This ‘gun-control paradox’ can be explained by the fact that the intensity of voters’ preferences differs across policy issues, and voters only have one vote with which to hold politicians accountable on a bundle of issues. A model incorporating these features predicts Senate voting behaviour very well. Senators closer to re-election are more likely to vote pro-gun, and only Democrats ‘flip-flop’ on guns.
A few large firms have disproportionate influence on economic fluctuations even in large countries. Such multinational firms are likely to transmit shocks across borders. This column argues that foreign affiliates drive the real business-cycle comovement between the region of location and the parent country. A few mechanisms explaining this link are presented.
Around the world, civil service reform is viewed as necessary to deliver public services effectively and to foster development. However, evidence is thin on how the management of bureaucrats affects the provision of public services. This column presents new evidence from Nigeria linking completion rates of government projects to bureaucractic management practices. Greater autonomy is associated with higher completion rates, whereas performance monitoring and incentive schemes seem to backfire. The most effective private-sector management practices may not be suited to public sector bureaucracies.
Many Eurozone banks are still in a fragile state following the Global Crisis. This vulnerability will be highlighted as the ECB takes charge of bank supervision, and the EZ moves towards a banking union. This column proposes a Eurozone bank restructuring agency as a way to speed up the crisis resolution. This temporary, centralised agency would be in charge of restructuring viable and non-viable banks throughout the Eurozone. Solving the problem of legacy assets is a necessary step towards a banking union.
Before the onset of the financial crisis, European households and non-financial firms were borrowing heavily in lower-yielding foreign currencies to finance their home mortgages or business investments, even though they did not necessarily have a steady income in the currency concerned. Five years after the financial crisis, banks still hold a substantial amount of foreign currency loans to unhedged borrowers on their balance sheets. This column quantifies the systemic risk that these foreign currency loans pose to the European banking sector.
A major feature of globalisation in the last decades has been the emergence of global supply chains, especially in Asia. This column explains how supply chains may increase the risks of shock contagion across countries. It shows how the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the floods in Thailand had ripple effects on the Japanese automobile industry across countries. It suggests that greater international cooperation, such as the development of sister industrial clusters, is one way to mitigate the risks.
Eliminating corruption is a central policy goal of policymakers around the globe. It is known that corruption is a barrier to economic development because it increases the costs and risk of business activity, and deters investment. This column discusses a new study analysing the opposite causal relationship – the effect of economic growth on corruption. Both theoretical and empirical evidence show that economic growth causes the amount of corruption to fall.
Households tend to smooth their consumption and that’s why expenditures do not display a large variability over time. However, the recent financial crisis has been associated with a large decrease in consumption in certain countries. This column presents evidence that a drop in income during a crisis leads to a lower short-run consumption. Furthermore, micro data analysis shows that some households are affected more than others. Thus, policy recommendations can be made only after taking household heterogeneity into account.
Two important long-run trends in economic geography are steady urbanisation and agglomeration to the big cities. This column presents recent research on population trends focusing on fixed regions over time. In seven of the eight countries studied, the region containing the largest metropolitan area significantly increased in population share at the expense of the rest of the country over the past few centuries. A ‘new economic geography’ model with multiple, asymmetric regions can replicate this new stylised fact.
Preferential import policies that allow developing markets to export to advanced economies are intended to dynamically promote development rather than just provide basic gains from trade. This column argues that the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act achieves the latter but not the former, distorting incentives along the value-added chain. While beneficial, preferential trade deals are not a panacea and are certainly not a replacement for pro-development policies.
The resale-pricing aspect adopted by Apple’s agency model is highly controversial. Competition authorities fear that it raises retail prices. In the app market, resale pricing reduces prices to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. Prices of eBooks, though, increased when Apple entered the industry. This column analyses why this is the case.
In the aftermath of the LIBOR scandal, it is important to re-establish a credible reference rate for the pricing of financial instruments and of wholesale and retail loans. The new candidate must meet the five criteria suggested by the Bank for International Settlements – reliability, robustness, frequency, availability, and representativeness – in all circumstances. This column argues that strengthening governance and/or adopting a trade-weighted reference rate is probably the fastest approach, but not necessarily sufficient for a resilient reference rate in the long run.
Discussions of international trade often focus on aggregate trade flows, but it is firms that trade, not countries. This column presents evidence from Norwegian export data showing that larger exporters have more customers and greater dispersion in customer size. Moreover, exporters with many customers tend to sell to importers with few suppliers. These stylised facts are captured by a model in which finding a buyer is costly. The model’s prediction that export responses are amplified in destinations with less buyer dispersion is confirmed in the data.
Does government quality affect the size and evolution of regional inequality? This column approaches this question using regional data for 46 countries with different degrees of economic development over the period 1996-2006. We find that there is a strong negative association between quality of government and within-country disparities. Countries with better quality of government register lower levels of spatial inequality.
Of the three pillars of the nascent European banking union, establishing a unified bank-resolution mechanism is the most pressing issue. This column suggests some changes to the existing Single Resolution Mechanism proposals. The decision to initiate resolution should be left to the ECB and national resolution authorities. Debt automatically convertible into equity when capital thresholds are violated could partially replace liabilities subject to bail-in. The Single Bank Resolution Fund must be supranational to ensure the credibility of the mechanism.
Preferential trade agreements have been proliferating since the 1990s. However, research that focuses on differences of design of such agreements is scarce. This column analyses whether this is the case by exploring the effect of depth of preferential trade agreements on trade flows. It concludes that deep agreements have larger trade flow effects than shallow ones.
Fixed and sunk costs are widely accepted as important determinants of export behaviour. This column argues that such costs may be shared by agglomerated collections of firms, and presents evidence of agglomeration’s effects on exporting in China. Agglomeration is more effective in low-tech sectors and land-locked areas. Surprisingly, the effect of agglomeration is different for indigenous and foreign firms.
Like all other over-the-counter derivatives markets, the UK credit default swap (CDS) market has traditionally been opaque, and important questions have been largely unanswered: How do UK CDS market participants trade? Who are the main players? And how did they behave during the financial crisis? Based on newly available transactions data, this column gives some first answers to these questions.
- A tale of two depressions: What do the new data tell us? February 2010 updateEichengreen, O’Rourke
- The ECB’s stealth bailoutSinn
- Educated in America: College graduates and high school dropoutsHeckman, LaFontaine
- Eurozone breakup would trigger the mother of all financial crisesEichengreen
- Panic-driven austerity in the Eurozone and its implicationsDe Grauwe, Ji
Adelman, 28 October 2013
Reichlin, Giugliano, 7 November 2013
Holmes, McGrattan, Prescott
Beck, De Haas, Ongena
CEPR Policy Research
- The buyer margins of firms' exportsCarballo, Ottaviano, Volpe
- Commodity and Equity Markets: Some Stylized Facts from a Copula ApproachDelatte, Lopez
- Ethnic Unemployment Rates and Frictional MarketsGobillon, Rupert, Wasmer
- Finance and Poverty: Evidence from IndiaAyyagari, Beck, Hoseini
- The Manipulation of Basel Risk-WeightsMariathasan, Merrouche
- What’s wrong with Europe?Baldini, Manasse
- How the EZ crisis is permanently changing EU institutionsMicossi
- WTO 2.0: Global governance of supply-chain tradeBaldwin
- Is US economic growth over? Faltering innovation confronts the six headwindsGordon
- The economic crisis: How to stimulate economies without increasing public debtWood