There is ongoing debate about the impact of technological progress on the geography of trade and production. One view is that cheap technology has attenuated the effect of distance, while others argue that location still matters. This column explores the issue in the context of foreign exchange markets. It examines how submarine fibre optic cables that link locations to financial hubs have affected the location of transactions. The findings suggest, on balance, that technological progress has made proximity to a trading centre more important.
Barry Eichengreen, Arnaud Mehl, Romain Lafarguette, 22 January 2016
Maya Eden, Paul Gaggl, 23 October 2015
Conventional wisdom suggests that there is too little ICT capital in poor countries and evidence show that they are indeed relatively less ICT abundant. This column discusses new evidence that this variation is not unwarranted – deviations from an estimated baseline level of ICT capital are not correlated with per capita income. This suggests that there are no systematic barriers to ICT adoption in low-income countries. They have less ICT capital since their economies are different.
Paul Gaggl, Greg C. Wright, 20 August 2015
Investments in ICT could affect different types of workers within the firm in a different way. This column shows that firms that invest in ICT reorganise their production processes in a way to raise the productivity of workers who perform complex, cognitive-intensive works. This ICT investment and firm reorganisation has little effect on other types of 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.
Hiroyasu Inoue, Kentaro Nakajima, Yukiko Umeno Saito, 11 February 2015
Despite vast improvements in information and communications technology, the tendency of firms in related industries to cluster together hardly changed between 1985 and 2005. This column examines the relationship between geographic clustering and innovation using establishment-level data from Japan. Research establishments – especially those in high-technology industries – are more localised than average. The degree of localisation is greater when establishments are weighted by their creativity, as measured by the number of patents created and the number of citations received.
Joanne Lindley, Steven McIntosh, 21 September 2014
Individuals who work in the finance sector enjoy a significant wage advantage. This column considers three explanations: rent sharing, skill intensity, and task-biased technological change. The UK evidence suggests that rent sharing is the key. The rising premium could then be due to changes in regulation and the increasing complexity of financial products creating more asymmetric information.
Masayuki Morikawa, 19 June 2014
Headquarters play important strategic roles in modern companies, but downsizing of headquarters is often advocated as a cost-cutting measure. This column presents evidence from Japanese firm-level data that the size of headquarters is positively associated with firms’ overall productivity. Moreover, the benefits of ICT are greater for companies with relatively large headquarters. Downsizing headquarters to cut costs may thus be harmful for long-term company performance.
Masayuki Morikawa, 26 August 2014
Headquarters play important strategic roles in modern companies, but downsizing of headquarters is often advocated as a cost-cutting measure. This column presents evidence from Japanese firm-level data that headquarters size is positively associated with firms’ overall productivity. Moreover, the benefits of ICT are greater for companies with relatively large headquarters. Downsizing headquarters to cut costs may thus be harmful for long-term company performance.
Nicholas Bloom, Luis Garicano, John Van Reenen, Raffaella Sadun, 04 December 2013
The profound impact of the ICT revolution on the job market have been widely studied, but the effects of different types of technology can be heterogeneous and even contradictory. This column presents evidence that technologies providing access to stored data tend to empower front line workers, while communicative technologies put more power in the hands of managers.
Stephen Machin, Sandra McNally, Olmo Silva , 14 December 2007
Do computers in schools help? Economists have long been sceptical, but new research finds that technology does have a positive effect on pupils’ performance.
Klaus Desmet, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg , 12 October 2007
Recent research suggests that improvements in information and communication technology are affecting the spatial growth of services today in the same way electricity promoted the concentration of manufacturing at the turn of the 20th century.