Daron Acemoglu, Jacob Moscona, James A Robinson, 27 June 2016

The ‘great inventions’ view of productivity growth ascribes the excellent growth from 1920 to 1970 in the US to a handful of advances, and suggests that today poor productivity performance is driven by a lack of breakthrough discoveries. This column argues instead that the development of an effective governmental infrastructure in the 19th century accounted for a major part of US technological progress and prominence in this period. Infrastructure design thus appears to have the power to reinvigorate technological progress.

Dalia Marin , 23 June 2016

Income inequality is less severe in Germany than in the US. Part of this is due to CEO pay in the US growing faster than in Germany. This column offers some novel explanations for these observations. From the mid-1990s, Germany began offshoring managerial tasks to Eastern Europe, reducing demand for German managers. In addition Germany offshored skill-intensive jobs to Eastern Europe, reducing the skill premium.

David Autor, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth, Melanie Wasserman, 22 June 2016

Around the world, girls tend to surpass boys in educational achievement. Early childhood inputs have been shown to be particularly important for the formation of children’s skills and behavioural patterns. Using US data, this column shows that in higher-quality schools the gender gap in terms of both skills and behaviour shrinks, with essentially no boy-girl disparity in outcomes at the very best schools. Better schools are thus an effective policy lever for reducing gender disparities in elementary and middle school outcomes. 

Brandon Dupont, Joshua L. Rosenbloom, 19 June 2016

The long-run persistence of social and economic status has received substantial attention from economists of late. But the impact of economic and political shocks on this persistence has yet to be thoroughly explored. This column examines the disruptions from the US Civil War on the Southern wealth distribution. Results suggest that an entrenched southern planter elite retained their economic status after the war. However, the turmoil of the decade opened mobility opportunities for Southerners of more modest means, especially compared with the North.

Peter H. Lindert, Jeffrey G. Williamson, 16 June 2016

Americans have long debated when the country became the world’s economic leader, when it became so unequal, and how inequality and growth might be linked.  Yet those debates have lacked the quantitative evidence needed to choose between competing views. This column introduces evidence on American incomes per capita and inequality for two centuries before World War I. American history suggests that inequality is not driven by some fundamental law of capitalist development, but rather by episodic shifts in five basic forces: demography, education policy, trade competition, financial regulation policy, and labour-saving technological change.

Ruben Durante, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 15 June 2016

Governments involved in conflict are often concerned with how their actions are perceived by the international community. This column uses evidence on the Israel-Palestine conflict and US news reporting between 2000 and 2011 to show how media considerations can impact military strategy. Israeli attacks are more likely to be carried out one day before the US news is expected to be dominated by important political or sport events. There is no evidence of a similar pattern to Palestinian attacks. The findings suggest that strategic behaviour could undermine the effectiveness of the mass media as a watchdog, and thus reduce citizens’ ability to keep public officials accountable. 

Efraim Benmelech, Ralf R Meisenzahl, Rodney Ramcharan, 11 June 2016

The US government’s ‘bailout of bankers’ in 2008-09 remains a highly controversial moment in economic policy. Many critics suggest that intervention to relieve household debt may have been more effective in stimulating economic recovery. This column suggests that without federal intervention to stabilise financial markets and recapitalise some non-bank lenders, the magnitude of the economic collapse might have been much worse. While household debt was incredibly important in reducing demand, the financial sector dislocations and the lack of credit also played a critical role.

Torben M. Andersen, Jonas Maibom, 29 May 2016

Theory and empirical data contest the direction of causality in the relationship between economic performance and income inequality – a relationship that is of great political importance. This column uses evidence from OECD countries to show that the relationship is not linear. While some countries can improve economic performance only at the cost of increasing economic inequality, other countries can improve both economic performance and equality without such a trade-off.

Kris James Mitchener , Gary Richardson, 28 May 2016

The Global Crisis emphasised the fragility of international financial networks. Despite this, there has been little historical research into how networks propagate financial shocks. This column explores how interbank networks transmitted liquidity shocks through the US banking system during the Great Depression. During banking panics, the pyramided-structure of reserves forced troubled banks to reduce lending, thus amplifying the decline in investment spending. 

Liangliang Jiang, Ross Levine, Chen Lin, 20 May 2016

By creating liquidity, banks improve the allocation of capital and accelerate economic growth. This column uses evidence from US banks between 1984 and 2006 to evaluate the impact of competition amongst banks on their liquidity creation. It finds that an intensification of competition in the banking industry materially reduces liquidity creation. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that more profitable banks experience a smaller reduction in liquidity creation because of their ability to better absorb risk. Similarly, an intensification of competition reduces liquidity creation more among small banks, who are more engaged in relationship lending.

Kevin Rinz, Daniel Hungerman, 15 May 2016

In the last decade, US states have created dozens of large-scale programmes that use public resources to subsidise attendance at private schools, but there is disagreement over who benefits from these subsidies. This column estimates the effects of the programmes on school revenue and enrolment. The programmes increase revenue, but the mechanism depends on the design. In programmes with restricted eligibility the subsidies reach families and increase enrolment, whereas in unrestricted programmes the subsidies flow to schools and increase revenue per student. 

Santiago Caicedo, Robert E. Lucas, Jr., Esteban Rossi-Hansberg , 14 May 2016

A large part of people’s wages rewards the knowledge embedded in them that they use in a production endeavour. Knowledgeable individuals specialise in hard, complicated tasks, while less knowledgeable ones specialise in simpler, more common tasks. This column uses a dynamic model of knowledge accumulation over time and career paths to find an underlying cause for wage inequality in the US over the last few decades. A good explanation for the wage inequality is the discrepancy between the rate of technological change and the rate at which the distribution of knowledge catches up.

Alex Cukierman, 19 April 2016

Following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, there was a fall in growth rates of net banking credit and total net new bond issues. This column discusses these events in detail. It also suggests that the decrease in credit was mainly due to supply shrinkage. The persistence of credit arrest beyond the two years following Lehman’s collapse is due to gradual enactment of tougher banking regulations along with growing awareness of low bailout probabilities. 

Eva Arceo, Rema Hanna, Paulina Oliva, 16 April 2016

Pollution levels are orders of magnitude higher in lower-income countries than in the developed world. This means that studies of the health effects of pollution based on data from the latter will not necessarily be relevant to the former. This column reports on the effect of air pollution on infant mortality in Mexico City. Significant effects are found that are much larger than found in earlier work based on US data. These findings highlight the potential pitfalls of naively extrapolating findings from high-income to developing countries.

Alex Cukierman, 16 April 2016

Both the US and the Eurozone reacted to the Global Crisis by injecting liquidity and loosening monetary policy. This column argues that despite the similarities in the behaviour of bank credit, the behaviour of bank reserves has been quite different. In particular, while US bank reserves have been on an uninterrupted upward trend since Lehman’s collapse, EZ bank reserves have fluctuated markedly in both directions. At the source, this is due to differences in the liquidity injections procedures between the Eurozone and the Fed.

Alex Cukierman, 30 March 2016

The quantity theory of money implies that sustained inflation requires a sustained increase in the money supply. It does not, however, imply that the reverse is also true. This column explores and illustrates this issue by comparing inflation in the US following the collapse of Lehman Brothers with Germany’s hyperinflation experience after WWI. A key factor explaining the vastly different inflation experiences is how the monetary expansion translated into demand. The Fed’s base expansion did not translate into demand for goods and services, whereas the German monetary expansion was motivated by the government’s hunger for seigniorage revenues.

Ryan A. Decker, John Haltiwanger, Ron Jarmin, Javier Miranda, 19 March 2016

Recent evidence suggests that transformational entrepreneurial firms – those that introduce major innovations and make substantial contributions to growth – have been in decline. This column uses US micro data to explore the behaviour of high-growth young firms between 1980 and 2010. A decline in young firm activity in the 1980s and 1990s was dominated by young firms in the retail trade sector. In the post-2000 period, in contrast, a sharp decline in high-growth young businesses in key innovative sectors like high tech suggests there has been a decline in transformational entrepreneurs in this sector. 

Evangelos Benos, Richard Payne, Michalis Vasios, 25 February 2016

Since the Global Crisis, a key ingredient of reforms has been to force over-the-counter contracts to be traded in more transparent exchange-like settings. The aim has been to reduce the cost of trading such instruments and make markets more resilient. This column analyses the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act in the US on the market for vanilla interest rate swaps. The introduction of swap execution facilities trading is associated with a significant improvement in swap market liquidity. This suggests that Europe may see similar benefits from centralising swap trading, though it remains to be seen how these markets will operate in more volatile times.

Di Gong, Harry Huizinga, Luc Laeven, 18 February 2016

Prior to the Global Crisis, banks could easily use off-balance sheet structures to lower their effective capitalisation rates. This column examines another way that US banks circumvented capital regulations – by maintaining minority-owned, non-consolidated subsidiaries. Had these subsidiaries been consolidated, average reported equity-to-assets ratios would have been 3.5% lower. These findings suggest that some US banks were actively misrepresenting the riskiness of their assets prior to the crisis.

Gerben Bakker, Nicholas Crafts, Pieter Woltjer, 05 February 2016

The Great Depression is considered one of the darkest times for the US economy, but some argue that the US economy experienced strong productivity growth over the period. This column reassesses this performance using improved measures of total factor productivity that allow for comparisons of productivity growth in the Depression era and in later decades. Contrary to Alvin Hansen’s gloomy prognosis of secular stagnation, the US economy was in a very strong position during the 1930s by today’s standards.

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