Peter E. Robertson, Monday, March 30, 2015

The Soviets matched the US only by spending up to 20% of GDP on the military during the Cold War. This column argues that, in stark contrast to this example, China has the potential to match the US in certain military spheres with similar burden on its economy. Using exchange rates comparisons significantly understates the Chinese military spending. A much more realistic assessment is obtained using PPP terms. If both countries spent the same fraction of their GDP on the military, the relative size of China’s military machine would be more than 90% of the US one.

Rena M. Conti, Ernst Berndt, David H. Howard, Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Total US prescription drug spending rose 13% in 2014, the biggest increase in a decade. Driving this trend is spending on branded specialty drugs, which rose an unprecedented 31%. This column discusses recent research into the relationship between inflation-adjusted launch prices and survival benefits and approval year for 58 anticancer drugs approved in the US between 1995 and 2013. The authors find that launch prices are going up by $8,500 per year, approximately 12% year over year.

Jeffrey R. Brown, Chichun Fang, Francisco Gomes, Monday, March 23, 2015

College-educated workers are less likely to experience unemployment, but their lifetime earnings are also much more uncertain. This column estimates the risk-adjusted value of college education to be between $225,000 and almost $600,000, corresponding to risk-adjusted increases in total present-value lifetime wealth of 35% to 48%. Increased earnings volatility actually decreased the risk-adjusted value of college between 1968–1980 and 1991–2011 by almost $50,000, even though expected lifetime income increased by about $150,000. Nevertheless, even the most conservative estimates of the value of college education are still positive.

Trevon D. Logan, John M. Parman, Monday, March 9, 2015

Racial disparities in socioeconomic conditions remain a major policy issue throughout the world. This column applies a new neighbour-based measure of residential segregation to US census data from 1880 and 1940. The authors find that existing measures understate the extent of segregation, and that segregation increased in rural as well as urban areas. The dramatic decline in opposite-race neighbours during the 20th century may help to explain the persistence of racial inequality in the US.

Alejandro Justiniano, Giorgio Primiceri, Andrea Tambalotti, Friday, February 27, 2015

There is no consensus among economists on the forces that drove the historical rise of US house prices and household debt that preceded the Global Crisis. In this column, the authors argue that the fundamental factor behind that boom was an increase in the supply of mortgage credit. This rise was brought about by the diffusion of securitisation and shadow banking, and by a surge in foreign capital inflows. The finding is based on a straightforward interpretation of four key macroeconomic developments between 2000 and 2006, provided by a simple general equilibrium model of housing and credit. 

Jason Furman, Friday, February 20, 2015

The US economy has strengthened considerably in recent years, presenting an opportunity to address the 40-year stagnation in incomes for the middle class. This column provides historical and international context for the key factors affecting middle-class incomes: productivity growth, labour force participation, and income inequality. It also outlines President Obama’s approach to economic policies – what he terms “middle-class economics” – which is designed to improve all three.

Carlo Carraro, Saturday, February 7, 2015

China and the US have recently agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This column asks what quantifiable impact the new targets will have, whether they are any better than previous approaches, and if so, whether they are enough to avoid dangerous climate change. While insufficient for keeping temperature increase below the 2°C limit, the US and China’s bilateral commitments are a step in the right direction, and form the basis for a stronger international agreement in Paris later this year.

Bas Bakker, Joshua Felman, Friday, February 6, 2015

Much research about the Great Recession in the US has focused on the boom-bust in housing wealth and spending of the middle class. This column argues that a large role was actually played by the rich. The savings rate of the rich went through a similar cycle as that of the middle class with rising wealth first stimulating their consumption and falling wealth restraining it. Most importantly, the wealth of the rich has become so large and volatile that wealth effects on their consumption could impact the whole economy. 

Johannes Stroebel, Joseph Vavra, Monday, January 26, 2015

Rising prices have long been a concern of monetary policymakers due to wealth effects on spending. This column presents evidence that local demand effects from  house price increases result in significant local price inflation. Households living in locations with rapidly increasing real estate prices will also face rapidly increasing costs of goods purchased in local stores.

Valerie Ramey, Sarah Zubairy, Friday, January 23, 2015

There is no consensus among economists about the size of the multiplier of government purchases. It is not clear either how multipliers vary with the state of the economy. This column presents new evidence on this issue using large historical data set from the US. The findings suggest that there is no evidence that fiscal multipliers differ by the amount of unemployment or the degree of monetary accommodation. 

Jeffrey Clemens, Michael Wither, Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The merit of a minimum wage is a classic issue of contention in economics and is of particular interest during a contraction. This column uses worker-level microdata to investigate the effect of a federal policy change in the US that affected some states more than others. The authors evaluate not only the proximate effects on employment, but also follow workers for up to three years afterward to track career trajectory following a minimum wage hike.

Lutz Kilian, Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The recent expansion of US shale oil production has captured the imagination of policymakers and industry analysts. It has fuelled visions of the US becoming independent of oil imports, of cheap US gasoline, of a rebirth of US manufacturing, and of net oil exports improving the US current account. This column asks how plausible these visions are, and examines the evidence to date.

John Mondragon, Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Great Recession was marked by disruptions to the supply of credit to firms and households. But little is known about how much supply shocks to household credit actually contributed to employment losses. This column uses data on US counties to examine the causal relationship running from the supply of household credit to employment during the recession. The author concludes that contractions in household credit supply caused substantial employment losses. 

Maarten van ’t Riet, Arjan Lejour, Monday, January 5, 2015

The recent actions of the US Treasury to rein in corporate tax inversions leave their rationale largely intact. This column discusses new evidence suggesting that the potential tax benefits of inversions are still huge. The recent Treasury measures raised legal obstacles, but the heart of the problem remains unaddressed. At some point a new technique is likely to be found to circumvent the new measures – just as happened with earlier measures. This is a worldwide problem.

Philippe Andrade, Richard Crump, Stefano Eusepi, Emanuel Moench, Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Expectations are critical for macroeconomics and financial markets. But the expectation-formation process is not well understood. This column discusses some empirical characteristics of forecast disagreement from professional forecasters in the US, and discusses the ‘information frictions’ that underlie the heterogeneity of expectations.

Brian Clark, Clement Joubert, Arnaud Maurel, Sunday, November 16, 2014

There are large rewards of higher education in terms of earnings. However, a sizeable fraction of workers hold occupations that not require as much schooling as they have. This column considers the effects of being overeducated on future employment and wages for a representative cohort of Americans. Around 38% of the college graduates in the sample have higher education than the typical worker in their profession. Rather than transitory, the bulk of overeducation persists in the long run. Even if workers manage to transit to better jobs, they experience wage penalties similar to those after unemployment. 

Lionel Fontagné, Sébastien Jean, Sunday, November 16, 2014

The TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has become a full-blown political issue as the two largest economic entities in the world are negotiating a deep integration agreement, going beyond what has been done previously in any agreement except the EU’s Single Market. This column estimates that a phasing-out of tariffs accompanied by a 25% cut in the trade restrictiveness of non-tariff measures would increase trade in goods and services between the two regions by 50%.

Alberto Cavallo, Guillermo Crucas, Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Monday, November 10, 2014

Although central banks have a natural desire to influence household inflation expectations, there is no consensus on how these expectations are formed or the best ways to influence them. This column presents evidence from a series of survey experiments conducted in a low-inflation context (the US) and a high-inflation context (Argentina). The authors find that dispersion in household expectations can be explained by the cost of acquiring and interpreting inflation statistics, and by the use of inaccurate memories about price changes of specific products. They also provide recommendations for central bank communication strategies. 

Jagjit Chadha, Sunday, November 2, 2014

The impact of the stock and maturity of government debt on longer-term bond yields matters for monetary policy. This column assesses the magnitude and relative importance of overall bond supply and maturity effects on longer-term US Treasury interest rates using data from 1976 to 2008. Both factors have a significant impact on both forwards and term premia, but maturity of public debt appears to matter more. The results have implications for exit from unconventional policies, and also for the links between monetary and fiscal policy and debt management.

Moreno Bertoldi, Philip R. Lane, Valérie Rouxel-Laxton, Paolo Pesenti, Friday, October 24, 2014

The reason for the divergent macroeconomic policies on the two sides of the Atlantic after the Crisis remains a hotly debated subject. The topic was also discussed at the recent “Macroeconomic Policy Mix in the Transatlantic Economy” workshop. This column summarises the main discussions at the workshop. Other covered topics included secular stagnation, the output effects of fiscal consolidation, cross-border banking (as a source and propagator of shocks), and the asset-market effects of unconventional monetary policies. 

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