When it comes to measuring GDP, researchers tend to use the latest vintage of the Penn World Tables. However, competing series like the World Development Indicators (WDI) and changing methodologies between vintages mean this is not necessarily the best approach. This column assesses the relative performance of different GDP estimators using night-time lights as an unbiased predictor of the growth rates of unobserved true income. Newer versions of the Penn Tables are not necessarily improvements on their direct predecessors. Newer versions of the WDI index, especially the 2011 vintage, appear generally better at measuring cross-country income differences.
Maxim Pinkovskiy, Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 26 June 2016
Diane Coyle, 08 February 2016
Digital technologies are having dramatic impacts on consumers, businesses, and markets. These developments have reignited the debate over the definition and measurement of common economic statistics such as GDP. This column examines the measurement challenges posed by digital innovation on the economic landscape. It shows how existing approaches are unable to capture certain elements of the consumer surplus created by digital innovation. It further demonstrates how they can misrepresent market-level shifts, leading to false assessments of production and growth.
Joshua Aizenman, Yothin Jinjarak, Jungsuk Kim, Donghyun Park, 08 January 2016
Taxation in developing nations has always been difficult, but the Global Crisis has brought further complications. This column examines and compares the tax revenue trends in Asia and Latin America to shed light on some of these issues. Despite their similarities, there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for tax/GDP ratios between the two regions. While progress has been made, the gap between the advanced economies and developing countries offers ample room for improvement. This is particularly important for developing nations as they face growing demand for fiscal spending.
M Ayhan Kose, Franziska Ohnsorge, Lei (Sandy) Ye, 07 January 2016
Emerging markets face their fifth consecutive year of slowing growth. This column examines the nature of the slowdown and appropriate policy responses. Repeated downgrades in long-term growth expectations suggest that the slowdown might not be simply a pause, but the beginning of an era of weak growth for emerging markets. The countries concerned urgently need to put in place policies to address their cyclical and structural challenges and promote growth.
Kevin Daly, Tim Munday, 28 November 2015
The fallout from the Global Crisis and its aftermath has been deeply damaging for European output. This column uses a growth accounting framework to explore the pre-Crisis and post-Crisis growth dynamics of several European countries. The weakness of post-Crisis real GDP in the Eurozone manifested itself in a decline in employment and average hours worked. However, decomposing growth for the Eurozone as a whole conceals significant differences across European countries, in both real GDP growth and its factor inputs.
Anton Cheremukhin, Mikhail Golosov, Sergei Guriev, Aleh Tsyvinski, 02 September 2015
Economists tend to focus on reforms that came after 1979 when explaining China’s soaring economic growth. This column argues that they shouldn’t. Mao’s policies also had a huge effect and should not be ignored. Economists and policymakers would do well to look further back in history. A long-term perspective might also help them bust a few myths along the way.
Alex Pienkowski, Pablo Anaya, 06 August 2015
During the Global Crisis, sovereign debt-to-GDP ratios grew substantially in the face of shocks to growth, increased fiscal deficits, bank recapitalisation costs, and rising borrowing costs. This column looks at how these various shocks interact with each other to exacerbate or mitigate the eventual impact on debt. Choice of monetary policy regime is an important determinant of how public debt reacts to these shocks.
Chun Chang, Kaiji Chen, Daniel Waggoner, Tao Zha, 01 August 2015
China’s spectacular growth over the 2000s has slowed since 2013. The driving force behind the country’s growth was investment, so the key to understanding the slowdown lies in understanding what sustained investment in the past. This column shows how a preferential credit policy promoting heavy industrialisation explains the trends and cycles in China’s macroeconomy over the past two decades. This policy was not without negative consequences, particularly in terms of the distortions it introduced for business finance. Going forward, China needs to focus on creating the right incentives for banks to make loans to small productive businesses.
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Jonathan Ashworth, 08 October 2014
Despite the growth of online and card payments, the ratio of currency to GDP in the UK has been rising. This column argues that rapid growth in the grey economy has been a key cause. The authors estimate that the grey economy in the UK could have expanded by around 3% of UK GDP since the beginning of the Global Crisis.
Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 27 September 2014
As demonstrated by the dramatic upward revision of Nigeria’s GDP for 2013, the choice of a benchmark year matters when computing GDP statistics. This column explains how the replacement of benchmark years creates an inconsistency between new and old national accounts series, and how different ways of resolving this inconsistency yield very different estimates of historical GDP levels and growth rates. When used to evaluate the relative historical performance of Spain and France, the interpolation procedure for splicing national accounts produces more plausible results than the conventional ‘retropolation’ approach.
Philippe Weil, 20 June 2014
The CEPR Business Cycle Dating Committee recently concluded that there is not yet enough evidence to call a business cycle trough in the Eurozone. Instead, the committee has announced a 'prolonged pause' in the recession. This Vox Talk discusses the possible directions that this situation could lead to and questions whether the Great Recession has harmed the Eurozone’s long-term growth prospects to the extent that meagre growth could become the 'new normal'.
CEPR Business Cycle Dating Committee, 17 June 2014
The simplest business cycle dating algorithm declares recessions over after two consecutive quarters of positive GDP growth. By that metric, the Eurozone recession has been over since 2013Q1. This column argues that growth and improvements in the labour market have been so anaemic that it is too early to call the end of the Eurozone recession. Indeed, if this is what an expansion looks like, then the state of the Eurozone economy might be even worse than economists feared.
Maxim Pinkovskiy, Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 27 February 2014
How many people are poor worldwide? This column explains that the answer depends on whether one uses survey of national-accounts data to anchor country distributions of income. It then argues that night-time lights suggest that national accounts offer a better estimate. Developing world poverty may be as low as 4.5% in 2010, much lower than the path constructed by surveys.
S Borağan Aruoba, Francis X. Diebold, Jeremy J Nalewaik, Frank Schorfheide, Dongho Song, 03 December 2013
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.
Martin Ravallion, 26 March 2010
The World Bank’s estimate of China’s real GDP per capita was revised down by 40% in 2005. This column explains how economic growth impacted price structures in developing countries -- impacts that had not been factored into how old PPPs were updated prior to new price surveys. It argues that large revisions could be avoided by using better economic models for predicting PPPs.
Enrique G. Mendoza, Vincenzo Quadrini, 14 November 2009
Can we blame financial globalisation for the severity of the current crisis? This column says that financial integration spread the negative banking shock that originated in the US across countries, thereby making the US better off at others’ expense.
Andrew K Rose, 01 August 2009
Less synchronised business cycles would be good news for the world economy, allowing for more stable global growth and opportunities for risk-sharing across countries. However, is decoupling fact or fiction? This column says that, contrary to much current commentary, there is no downward trend in synchronisation.
Nicholas Crafts, 11 July 2008
Standard policies to redress Europe's productivity problems keep politicians in their comfort zone: support for the “knowledge economy” and more R&D. More progress would come if they accepted and facilitated the “dark side” of productivity improvement – the exit of high-cost producers and re-deployment of labour.
Philip R. Lane, 01 July 2008
Ireland switched from 5% growth in 2007 to negative growth in 2008. Ireland’s leading macroeconomist discusses that causes and consequences for national policy. A thorough reform of tax and spending policy is the answer, even if it violates the Maastricht limits in the short run.
Jon Faust, 31 January 2008
The US Federal Reserve makes monetary policy based on necessarily imperfect economic forecasts. Recent research shows that the Fed is quite adept at assessing current economic conditions, but forecasting the future remains disappointingly difficult.