Global economy

Housing capital and Piketty’s analysis

Odran Bonnet, Pierre-Henri Bono, Guillaume Camille Chapelle, Étienne Wasmer, 30 June 2014

Thomas Piketty’s claim that the ratio of capital to national income is approaching 19th-century levels has fuelled the debate over inequality. This column argues that Piketty’s claim rests on the recent increase in the price of housing. Other forms of capital are, relative to income, at much lower levels than they were a century ago. Moreover, it is rents – not house prices – that should matter for the dynamics of wealth inequality, and rents have been stable as a proportion of national income in many countries.

Global income distribution since 1988

Christoph Lakner , Branko Milanovic, 27 May 2014

Since 1988, rapid growth in Asia has lifted billions out of poverty. Incomes at the very top of the world income distribution have also grown rapidly, whereas median incomes in rich countries have grown much more slowly. This column asks whether these developments, while reducing global income inequality overall, might undermine democracy in rich countries.

Why are savings so high among the young in urban China?

Mark R. Rosenzweig, Junsen Zhang, 21 May 2014

Household savings in China are high by international standards, and the young save as much or more than the middle-aged – a fact at odds with the standard life-cycle savings model. This column argues that neither old-age support by the middle-aged nor the one-child policy can satisfactorily explain this phenomenon. Rather, currently high housing costs and the prevalence of inter-generational shared housing are key reasons for the higher savings rates of the urban young in China.

China is not yet number one

Jeffrey Frankel, 9 May 2014

Many claim that China will soon overtake the US. This column argues that this claim is based on a misuse of statistics. ICP price data is necessary to compare living standards, since a dollar’s worth of yuan buys more in China than a dollar buys in the US. But the fact that rice and clothes are cheap in rural China does not make the Chinese economy larger. What matters for size in the world economy is how much a yuan can buy on world markets. Using the correct prices, the US remains the world’s largest economic power by a substantial margin.

The US manufacturing recovery

Oya Celasun, Gabriel Di Bella, Tim Mahedy, Chris Papageorgiou, 24 February 2014

The strong rebound of manufacturing production following the Great Recession of 2008–09 has generated renewed interest in the sector among analysts and policymakers. This column argues that a detailed look at the data suggests that claims of a US manufacturing renaissance are unwarranted. Yet, there remain factors that could support a greater contribution from the manufacturing sector to overall US growth in the years ahead.

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