Productivity and Innovation

Andrew W. Lo, Richard T. Thakor, 24 March 2015

R&D-intensive firms such as biopharmaceutical companies operate in a competitive and risky environment. This column presents new evidence on how competition affects the investment decision of R&D-intensive firms. An increase in competition will make the firm increase the R&D investment, and as a response the firm will carry more cash and reduce its debt. Also, more competition will increase the idiosyncratic risk of R&D-intensive firms.

Guy Michaels, Georg Graetz, 18 March 2015

Robots may be dangerous not only to the action heroes of cinema, but also to the average manufacturing worker. This column analyses the effect robots have had in 14 industries across 17 developed countries from 1993 to 2007. Industrial robots increase labour productivity, total factor productivity, and wages. While they don’t significantly change total hours worked, they may be a threat to low- and middle-skilled workers.

Uri Dadush, 13 March 2015

Manufacturing is often seen as the key to sustainable export and productivity growth in developing countries. This column argues that, while manufacturing played a key role in some countries’ development, high growth can be sustained without relying primarily on manufacturing. A process of learning, productivity improvement, and investment that touches all sectors characterises the most successful economies. Policies that artificially favour manufacturing should instead give way to maximising learning from the frontier in all sectors of the economy.

Holger Mueller, Paige Ouimet, Elena Simintzi, 12 March 2015

Rising wage inequality has received attention from academics and policymakers alike. This column describes new evidence for determinants of the ‘skill premium’, i.e., the wage difference between high and low-skilled workers. The findings indicate that skill premia are larger at larger firms. At the same time, larger firms have grown substantially. Therefore, the growth of larger firms in the economy could partially explain the growing wage inequality. 

Bruno S Frey, Jana Gallus, 11 March 2015

Official awards are common in both monarchies and republics. Awards are bestowed not just by the state and the military, but also by cultural associations, academic institutions, and corporations. This column surveys the academic literature on the use of awards and their effect on motivation and performance. The authors argue that awards are a welcome means of honouring dedication and commitment. They delight their winners, motivate high performance, create role models – and come at low or even no cost.

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