Deep roots or current policies – what drives sustained prosperity differences across locations?
Mercedes Delgado, Christian Ketels, Michael Porter, Scott Stern 18 September 2014
There is a consensus among economists that ‘deep roots’ – geography, natural endowments, and institutions – are important determinants of prosperity differences across countries. This column argues that deep roots matter, but they are neither the whole story nor an excuse for political inaction today. Current policies are important – especially the broad range of policies that shape the business environment and the sophistication of companies – and they are affected but not determined by the past.
What explains the dramatic differences in prosperity levels across locations? A large segment of the research-oriented literature points towards ‘deep roots’, i.e. legacy factors that have been set long ago (Spolaore and Wacziarg 2012). The debate rages on as to whether geographic location and natural endowments (e.g. McCord and Sachs 2013, Sachs et al. 2001) or institutional legacies – themselves influenced by geography and natural conditions (e.g. Acemoglu et al. 2001, Acemoglu and Robinson 2012) – are key.
Development Institutions and economics
deep roots, development, Botswana, institutions, geography, colonialism, extractive institutions, natural resources
Restoring financial stability with economic growth
James Boughton 15 September 2014
The international financial system is not working fine and reforms of regional and global institutions are much needed. This column discusses some of the transformations that the IMF could implement in order to keep pace with the changes in the world economy. One problem for the credibility of the IMF is the G20 in its current design and organisation. Institutional reforms, however, should be combined with advances in economic policy in order to promote economic growth and financial stability.
No one would argue seriously any longer that the international financial system is working just fine. When the politicians and central bankers who govern the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank gather in Washington this October, much of the talk will be about the refusal of the US Congress to pass legislation that would reform the IMF.
Global governance International finance
economic growth, financial stability, institutions, IMF, G20
How history can contribute to better economic education
Coen Teulings 11 July 2014
The financial crisis and the Great Recession have led to calls for more economic history in economic education. This column argues for a much broader use of history in economics courses, as a device for teaching both the logic and the empirical relevance of economics. A proposed curriculum would include the rise of agriculture, urbanisation, war, the rule of law, and demography.
Historians tend to stress the particularities in history. Each event is unique, caused by a set of conditions that will never reproduce themselves again. In turn, each event causes new events, which therefore are equally unique and equally irreproducible. Hence, historians conduct painstaking research into the details of these conditions to understand the course of history.
Economic history Education
geography, institutions, Agriculture, economic history, Industrial Revolution, urbanisation, agglomeration, history, new economic geography
Institutions, trade shocks, and regional differences in long-run educational and development trajectories
André Carlos Martínez, Aldo Musacchio, Martina Viarengo 09 July 2014
Institutions are known to play a powerful and enduring role in countries’ divergent levels of economic development. This column presents evidence that institutions matter for within-country inequality, too. In Brazil, changes in export prices and export tax revenues led to an increase in education spending in states that experienced commodity booms, which increased the number of schools and improved educational outcomes such as literacy rates. However, the effect was limited in states where slavery was predominant in colonial times.
Understanding the determinants of long-run socio-economic development is a major concern for academics and policymakers in many countries around the world. In particular, beyond understanding differences in development or educational and other outcomes across countries, the origins of within-country inequality are now a fundamental issue, given the impact inequality has on the long-run prosperity of nations.
Development Economic history Education
development, education, growth, institutions, Inequality, Brazil, colonialism, trade shocks, extractive institutions
The euro crisis: Muddling through, or on the way to a more perfect euro union?
Joshua Aizenman 03 July 2014
After a promising first decade, the Eurozone faced a severe crisis. This column looks at the Eurozone’s short history through the lens of an evolutionary approach to forming new institutions. German dominance has allowed the euro to achieve a number of design objectives, and this may continue if Germany does not shirk its responsibilities. Germany’s resilience and dominant size within the EU may explain its ‘muddling through’ approach to the Eurozone crisis. Greater mobility of labour and lower mobility of under-regulated capital may be the costly ‘second best’ adjustment until the arrival of more mature Eurozone institutions.
The short history of the Eurozone has been remarkable and unprecedented – the euro project has moved from the planning board to a vibrant currency within less than ten years. Otmar Issing’s optimistic speech in 2006 reflects well the buoyant assessment of the first decade of the euro – an unprecedented formation of a new currency without a state.1 Observers viewed the rapid acceptance of the euro as a viable currency and the deeper financial integration of the Eurozone and the EU countries as stepping stones toward a stable and prosperous Europe.
Institutions and economics International finance Monetary policy
Germany, ECB, eurozone, inflation targeting, euro, institutions, Eurozone crisis, GIIPS
British and French educational legacies in Africa
Denis Cogneau, Alexander Moradi 17 May 2014
The quasi-experiment of arbitrary border design allows for causal interpretation of institutional effects across territories. This column presents evidence on the impact of British and French colonial education policies in West Africa. British flexibility and French centralisation resulted in educational attainment differences that persist – across one border – even among some cohorts of the current workforce.
Britain and France followed two very distinct approaches to education in their African colonies (Garner and Schafer 2006).
Development Economic history Education
Africa, institutions, colonialism, West Africa
New evidence on the durability of social norms
John Helliwell, Shun Wang, Jinwen Xu 12 March 2014
Social norms have been shown to have important effects on economic outcomes. This column discusses new evidence showing that social norms are deeply rooted in long-standing cultures, but do evolve in reaction to major changes. It draws on a fully global sample involving migrants in more than 130 countries, using seven waves of the Gallup World Poll.
Recent studies find that individuals’ social norms – as evidenced by their opinions and behaviour – can be transmitted from one generation to the next within the same cultural setting (Algan and Cahuc 2010, Bjørnskov 2012, Dohmen et al. 2012, Guiso et al. 2006, Rainer and Siedler 2009, Rice and Feldman 1997). Studies also find that the current environment – such as institutions – plays an important role in shaping an individual’s social norms (Dinesen 2012, Nannestad et al. 2014, Alesina and La Ferrara 2002, Bjørnskov 2007, Glaeser et al. 2000, Helliwell and Wang 2011, Kosfeld et al.
Frontiers of economic research Migration
institutions, immigration, social attitudes, trust, migration, Culture, social norms
Unemployment, labour-market flexibility and IMF advice: Moving beyond mantras
Olivier Blanchard, Florence Jaumotte, Prakash Loungani 18 October 2013
The state of labour markets in advanced economies remains dismal despite recent signs of growth. This column explains the IMF’s logic behind the advice it provided on labour markets during the Great Recession. It argues that flexibility is crucial both at the micro level, i.e. on worker reallocation, and at the macro level, e.g. on collective agreements. It suggests that the IMF approach is close to the consensus among labour-market researchers.
Growth in advanced economies is gaining some speed. The IMF projects these economies will grow 2% next year, up from an expected 1.2% this year. The average unemployment rate in advanced economies is expected to inch down from its peak of 8.3% in 2010 to 8% next year. This is progress, but it is clearly not enough. The state of labour markets remains dismal for a number of reasons.
Labour markets Welfare state and social Europe
unemployment, institutions, IMF, trust, Unemployment insurance, labour-market flexibility, EZ crisis, collective bargaining
National institutions and subnational development in Africa
Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou 11 October 2013
During the ‘Scramble for Africa,’ the arbitrary design of colonial borders partitioned many ethnicities across two or more contemporary African states. This column presents recent research that exploits this quasi-experiment to study the effect of institutions on development. The overall effect of institutions is insignificant; but this masks considerable heterogeneity driven by diminishing government influence in remote areas. These findings conflict with previous cross-country work in economics, but support arguments put forward by the African historiography.
Few issues have received more inquiry in the social sciences than "what are the fundamental determinants of comparative development?" The institutional view asserts that the ultimate causes of underdevelopment are poorly performing institutional structures, such as lack of constraints on the executive, poor property-rights protection, as well as inefficient legal and court systems (see Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson 2005 for a review and Acemoglu and Robinson 2012 for an influential popular argument).
Development Economic history Institutions and economics
Africa, institutions, Culture, politics and economics
Finding his own way: Ronald Coase (1910-2013)
Steven Medema 18 September 2013
Ronald Coase’s contributions to economics were much broader than most economists recognise. His work was characterised by a rejection of ‘blackboard economics’ in favour of detailed case studies and a comparative analysis of real-world institutions. This column argues that the ‘Coase theorem’ as commonly understood is in fact antithetical to Coase’s approach to economics.
Ronald Coase, who passed away last week at the age of 102, left an indelible mark on both economics and law. In 1991 he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in recognition of his work on transaction costs and property rights. Best known for the ‘theorem’ that bears his name, the depth and breadth of Coase’s contributions are decidedly under-appreciated by the economics community – in no small part because his methodological approach and the subjects to which it led him differed from those that dominated the profession after WWII.
Institutions and economics
institutions, history of economic thought, methodology, case studies, transaction costs