James A Robinson, Ragnar Torvik, Thierry Verdier, 27 July 2015

Economists have long understood that policy chosen by politics is unlikely to be socially optimal. This is because politicians face the probability of losing power and may discount the future too much, or act to improve their re-election probability. This column explores these issues taking into account the fact that future government revenue is uncertain. Public income volatility acts to reduce the efficiency of public policy. This has important implications for developing countries that rely on income from volatile sources, such as natural resource extraction.

Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 26 July 2015

How does Latin American well-being compare to the advanced nations? This column presents a new historical index of human development that allows for analyses of trends in Latin American development since 1870. The results unearth a number of puzzles that pit rising income against flagging developments in well-being.

John Gibson, Chao Li, 23 July 2015

The size of cities in China – and the effects of city size on productivity – are important topics for urban economists. This column argues that the data used in many previous studies of Chinese cities do not stand up to scrutiny because they do not take nearly enough workers into account. More comprehensive data on city employment from China’s 2010 census suggest that there are lots of inefficiently small cities.

Sebastian Galiani, Paul Gertler, Raimundo Undurraga, 21 July 2015

Does material wealth make you happier? Recent literature and public discussion suggests that we believe widely that, in the long term, it doesn’t; especially if you are fairly wealthy and live in the West. But what if you’re poor and live in a developing country? This column presents new evidence that taking material improvements for granted is a common human behaviour that is present even among the extremely poor.

Bernardin Akitoby, Sanjeev Gupta, Abdelhak Senhadji, 18 July 2015

There has been a heated debate about the effectiveness of fiscal policy as a countercyclical tool but little evidence on how it can support growth. This column shows that fiscal policy can lift medium- and long-term growth in both advanced and developing economies. But all fiscal reforms are not equal in their growth dividend. Successful reforms are often part of a broader reform package and can balance the growth-equity trade-off.

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