Rudiger Ahrend, Alexander C. Lembcke, Abel Schumann, 19 January 2016

A city’s metropolitan governance structure has a critical influence on the quality of life and economic outcomes of its inhabitants. This column quantifies the impact of governance on productivity using data from five OECD countries. Administrative fragmentation, which complicates policy coordination across a city, has a negative effect on individual productivity. This finding, combined with benefits from good governance such as improved transport and lower pollution levels, highlights the importance of well-designed metropolitan authorities.

Dino Pinelli, István P. Székely, Janos Varga, 22 December 2015

Italy’s economic performance is lagging behind other Eurozone and OECD countries. This column argues that radical changes in human capital, financial, innovation and product markets, and taxation would restore growth, but will take time to bear fruits. This leaves no room for complacency in the ongoing reform efforts. 

Adriana Kugler, Maurice Kugler, Juan Saavedra, Luis Herrera, 28 January 2016

Vocational training programmes offer a second chance to those who drop out of the formal education system. Most studies of the success of such programmes, however, typically only analyse outcomes directly after participation. This column examines the medium- and long-term outcomes of a vocational training programme in Colombia. Results suggest that vocational training and formal education are complementary investments and that there are educational spillover effects for family members, in particular among applicants with high baseline educational attainment.

Elisabeth Bublitz, 22 July 2015

Workers who switch firms can lose firm-specific human capital. This column presents evidence of how moving to occupationally specialised firms can compensate workers for wage losses that are caused by ‘specific human capital’. When switches occur between firms that are very distant from each other in terms of their knowledge structure, occupationally specialised firms are prepared to pay a wage premium that can outweigh the costs of such long-distance switches.

Markus Brückner, Daniel Lederman, 07 July 2015

The relationship between aggregate output and income inequality is central in macroeconomics. This column argues that greater income inequality raises the economic growth of poor countries and decreases the growth of high- and middle-income countries. Human capital accumulation is an important channel through which income inequality affects growth. 

Rune Dahl Fitjar, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 24 June 2015

Policymakers have used a variety of measures to promote firm innovation but their exact impact remains unclear. This column argues that regional context, proxied by investment in R&D and education levels, is fundamental in shaping the innovative performance of firms. The local socioeconomic environment either favours or limits the innovative capacity of firms, depending on their level of interaction both with neighbouring and distant economic actors.

Kirill Shakhnov, 17 January 2015

The rapid growth of the US financial sector has driven policy debate on whether it is socially desirable. This column examines the trade-off between finance and entrepreneurship, and links the growth of finance to rising wealth inequality. Although financial intermediation helps allocate capital efficiently, people choosing a career in finance do not internalise the negative effect on the pool of talented entrepreneurs. This mechanism can explain the simultaneous growth of wealth inequality and finance in the US, and why more unequal countries have larger financial sectors.

Antonio Cabrales, Juan J. Dolado, Ricardo Mora, 05 December 2014

The negative consequences of dual labour markets have been extensively documented, but so far little attention has been paid to their effects on workers’ on-the-job training and cognitive skills. This column discusses evidence from PIAAC – an exam for adults designed by the OECD in 2013. Temporary contracts are associated with a reduction of 8–16 percentage points in the probability of receiving on-the-job training, and this training gap can explain up to half of the gap in numeracy scores between permanent and temporary workers.

Victor Lavy, Avraham Ebenstein, Sefi Roth, 20 November 2014

Admission to higher education often depends on the results of high-stakes tests, but assessing the consequences of having a ‘bad day’ on such tests is challenging. This column provides evidence from a dataset on Israeli high-school students. Random variations in pollution have measurable effects on exam performance, and these in turn have significant effects on students’ future educational and labour-market outcomes. The authors argue that placing too much weight on high-stakes exams may not be consistent with meritocratic principles.

Claudio Michelacci, Hernán Ruffo, 18 November 2014

Like any insurance mechanism, unemployment benefits involve a trade-off between risk sharing and moral hazard. Whereas previous studies have concluded that unemployment insurance is close to optimal in the US, this column argues that replacement rates should vary over the life cycle. Young people typically have little means to smooth consumption during a spell of unemployment, while the moral hazard problems are minor – regardless of replacement rates, the young want jobs to improve their lifetime career prospects and to build up human capital.

Marco Annunziata, 16 August 2014

Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.

Raphael Boleslavsky, Christopher Cotton, 16 August 2014

Grade inflation is widely viewed as detrimental, compromising the quality of education and reducing the information content of student transcripts for employers. This column argues that there may be benefits to allowing grade inflation when universities’ investment decisions are taken into account. With grade inflation, student transcripts convey less information, so employers rely less on transcripts and more on universities’ reputations. This incentivises universities to make costly investments to improve the quality of their education and the average ability of their graduates.

Nico Voigtländer, Mara Squicciarini, 13 July 2014

Although studies of contemporary economies find robust associations between human capital and growth, past research has found no link between worker skills and the onset of industrialisation. This column resolves the puzzle by focusing on the upper tail of the skill distribution, which is strongly associated with industrial development in 18th-century France.

Amparo Castelló-Climent, Rafael Doménech, 23 April 2014

Most developing countries have made a great effort to eradicate illiteracy. As a result, the inequality in the distribution of education has been reduced by more than half from 1950 to 2010. However, inequality in the distribution of income has hardly changed. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on human capital inequality. The authors find that increasing returns to education, globalisation, and skill-biased technological change can explain why the fall in human capital inequality has not been sufficient to reduce income inequality.

Shelly Lundberg, Robert A. Pollak, 29 October 2013

Marriage patterns have changed in the last 50 years as fertility rates declined and cohabitation became more widespread. These trends can be explained by a shift in the gains from marriage away from specialisation and towards investment in children. This column argues that different patterns in childrearing are key to understanding class differences in marriage and parenthood. Heterogeneity in preferences for – or ability to invest in – child human capital explain marriage and fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups.

Markus Brückner, Mark Gradstein, 04 April 2013

Average income per capita is strongly correlated with more schooling, but this relationship is more complex than it appears. This column presents new research showing that a large part of the correlation is attributed to the causal effect of economic prosperity on the formation of human capital via schooling.

Janet Currie, 19 July 2008

What explains the poverty trap? This column summarises a vast array of evidence on the relationship between parents’ socioeconomic status, children’s health, and children’s future socioeconomic outcomes. Poverty worsens childhood health, which leads to adulthood poverty. Focusing on young mothers’ health and wellbeing could break the cycle.

Emilia del Bono, Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 25 February 2008

Over the last century careers or jobs that provide opportunities for promotion and advancement have become more desirable for females and labour market conditions that impede the establishment of stable careers early in their lives like unemployment, temporary jobs or involuntary turnover, may be reasons for a delay or even a permanent reduction in fertility. The authors of CEPR DP6719 explore how women’s fertility decisions are affected by these considerations and find that certain stages of their careers might be particularly sensitive to labour supply interruptions.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, 25 January 2008

Are some African economies poised for prolonged growth and human development? This article assesses African development prospects using Iceland’s economic ascent over the last century as a benchmark.

Josep Pijoan-Mas, Claudio Michelacci, 28 May 2007

Since the 1970s, the number of hours worked per employee has fallen substantially in continental Europe, while it has remained roughly constant in the US. The authors of CEPR DP6314 show that this divergence in the number of hours worked per employee on the two sides of the Atlantic can be explained by the evolution of the respective labour market conditions over the last three decades.