Politics and economics

Giovanni Peri, Anna Maria Mayda, Walter Steingress, 02 February 2016

Immigration is an important election issue that often benefits right-wing political parties. Contemporary European politics is an example par excellence. Immigration in the US has been intermittently at the fringes and centre-stage in recent years, and this column looks at the extent to which US voters care about immigration. The political effect of immigration turns out to crucially depend on the extent to which immigrants participate in the political process. One thing from the research is clear: Republicans are generally opposed to immigration reforms, especially if they include a path to citizenship for currently undocumented immigrants. Naturalised immigrants are a liability for conservative politicians, as they tend to vote for progressive parties.

Alessandro Gavazza, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, 31 January 2016

The internet is lauded for increasing access to information, but it is unclear whether this translates into a better-informed and more engaged voting populace. This column uses UK data to determine how the internet has changed voting patterns and aggregate policy choices. Internet penetration is found to be associated with a decrease in voter turnout, mainly among the lower socioeconomic demographic. Internet diffusion is also found to reduce local government expenditure, in particular on policies targeting less-educated voters. These findings point to a trade-off between the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘political divide’.

Alessandra Bonfiglioli, Gino Gancia, 19 December 2015

The Great Recession highlighted the prominent role that economic uncertainty plays in hindering investment and growth. This column provides new evidence that economic uncertainty can actually play a positive role by promoting the implementation of structural reforms with long-run benefits. The effect appears to be strongest for countries with poorly informed voters. These findings suggest that times of uncertainty may present an opportunity to implement reforms that would otherwise not be passed.

Nishith Prakash, Marc Rockmore, Yogesh Uppal, 17 December 2015

India is electing more and more politicians that are, or have been, accused of criminal activity. This column asks whether accused – and potentially corrupt – politicians influence economic activity by focusing on data from road construction, which is often tied to corruption. The evidence tentatively suggests that caste-based and patronage politics favours lower quality politicians, who in turn deliver benefits to specific groups. This generally leads to lower aggregate growth.

Eric D Gould, Esteban F Klor, 16 December 2015

Hate crimes against Muslims flared up in a number of western countries immediately after the terror attacks in Paris. This column presents evidence from the US after 9/11 suggesting that such a backlash can create a less assimilated and more isolated Muslim community. Terror attacks against western targets may have a long-term political and socio-economic impact on this generation and possibly the next.

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