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.
Gerben Bakker, Nicholas Crafts, Pieter Woltjer, 05 February 2016
Michael Kremer, Christopher Snyder, Natalia Drozdoff, 29 January 2016
Many observers believe that pharmaceutical firms prefer to invest in drugs to treat diseases rather than vaccines. This column presents an economic rationale for why such a pattern may emerge for diseases like HIV/AIDS. The population risk of such diseases resembles a Zipf distribution, which makes the shape of the demand curve for a drug more conducive to revenue extraction than for a vaccine. Based on revenue calibrations using US data on HIV risk, the revenue from a drug is about four times greater.
Luis Brandao-Marques, Gaston Gelos, 18 January 2016
Concerns about both the level of bond market liquidity and its fragility have risen lately, prompted partly by events such as the October 2014 Treasury bond flash rally in the US, or the April 2015 Bund tantrum in Europe. This column assesses current market liquidity and resilience, discerning several key policy recommendations from the evidence.
Janet Currie, 15 January 2016
Studies of the effects of economic fluctuations on health have come to wildly different conclusions. This may be because the effects are different for different groups. Using US data, this column looks at the health consequences of the Great Recession on mothers, a sub-population that has thus far been largely neglected in the literature. Increases in unemployment are found to have large negative health effects and to increase incidences of smoking and substance abuse among mothers. These effects appear to be concentrated on disadvantaged groups such as minorities, and point to short- and long-term consequences for their children.
Pablo Fajgelbaum, Eduardo Morales, Juan Carlos Suarez, Owen Zidar, 06 January 2016
Tax policy varies widely across countries and across regions within countries. This column presents evidence suggesting that in the case of the US, harmonising tax rates could lead to significant increases in aggregate economic output. EU policymakers should take note.
Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, 15 December 2015
The recent influx of refugees to Europe has stoked security fears and created anxiety about the social and economic consequences. This column provides new quantitative indicators for the intensity of migration-related fears and policy uncertainty, based on newspaper articles. The indices are presented for the US, UK, France, and Germany, and extend back to 1995. They show that recent levels of concern and uncertainty in European countries about migration are unprecedented.
Sari Pekkala Kerr, William Kerr, 12 December 2015
The globalisation of innovation is proceeding at a fast pace. This column argues that the ethnic composition of a firm’s US-based inventive work force is an important factor in whether the firm engages in international collaborations. Collaborative patents are often utilised when a US public company is entering into a new foreign region for innovative work. This is especially notable in markets with weak intellectual property protections.
Stefano Breschi, Francesco Lissoni, Ernest Miguelez, 07 December 2015
We traditionally think of migrants draining their home country of knowledge and skills, and, instead, giving their all to their host country. Based on patent and inventor data, this column looks at knowledge diffusion conveyed by highly skilled migrants both within their host country as well as back to their homelands. China, South Korea and Russia seem to profit from their diaspora’s knowledge generation but the same can’t be said for India.
Nikolaos I. Papanikolaou, Christian C. P. Wolff, 06 December 2015
In the years running up to the global crisis, the banking sector was marked by a high degree of leverage. Using US data, this column shows how, before the onset of the crisis, banks accumulated leverage both on and, especially, off their balance sheets. The latter activities saw an increase in maturity mismatch, raised the probability of bank runs, and increased both individual bank risk and systemic risk. These findings support the imposition of an explicit off-balance sheet leverage ratio in future regulatory frameworks.
Andrew Foote, Michel Grosz, Ann Huff Stevens, 17 November 2015
In light of the Great Recession, we continue to learn new ways in which economic downturns directly affect the labour market. This column suggests that following an adverse demand shock, individuals exit local labour markets primarily through migration, but that has become less prominent in the Great Recession. Faced with declining economic prospects, workers are becoming more likely to stay put, without re-entering the labour market.
James Feyrer, Erin T. Mansur, Bruce Sacerdote, 16 November 2015
Fracking has driven an oil and natural gas boom in the US over the past decade. This column examines the impact these mining activities have had on local and regional economies. US counties enjoy significant economic benefits, including increased wages and new job creation. These effects grow as the geographic radius is extended to include neighbouring areas in the region. The results suggest that the fracking boom provided some insulation for these areas during the Great Recession, and lowered national unemployment by as much as 0.5%.
Dominika Langenmayr, 13 November 2015
Voluntary disclosure programmes offer tax evaders the opportunity to come clean with reduced penalties. This column uses data from the US and Germany to examine the merits of such programmes. They are found to increase tax evasion, but also to significantly lower administrative costs, leading to a net increase in tax revenues.
Lisa D. Cook, Trevon D. Logan, John M. Parman, 13 November 2015
Much research has gone into trying to establish a connection in the US between having a distinctively black name and disadvantage over a lifetime. This column highlights a striking difference between the historical effects of having a black name and today’s effects. While modern black names show up in modern empirical studies as an albatross around the neck of those possessing them, either because those with such names come from worse socioeconomic conditions or face discrimination later in life, historical black names conveyed a large advantage accumulating over an individual’s lifetime.
Claudia Olivetti, M Daniele Paserman, 12 November 2015
Intergenerational income mobility is currently not very high in the US compared to other developed countries. This column shows that US intergenerational income equality was high in the 19th century but plummeted between 1900 and 1920. The income-mobility ladder was thus pulled up during the so-called Great Gatsby era.
Régis Barnichon, 12 November 2015
Many commentators have noted that the US has ridden out its post-crisis malaise rather skilfully, not least when it comes to reducing unemployment. This column argues that the US unemployment rate - despite being impressive, all things considered - still has substantial room to fall because desire to work among the non-employed is close to a record low.
William Kerr, Martin Mandorff, 31 October 2015
Immigrants are more likely to concentrate around specific industries and entrepreneurship. Market integration and discrimination only go a certain way towards explaining this phenomenon. This column explores how social interactions affect immigrants’ employment decisions in the US. Fifteen ethnic groups are found to cluster around certain industries at a rate 10 times greater than the native population. Immigrants are argued to be drawn to the same industries as their countrymen due to the ease of diffusing skills through social interactions in the group, along with higher earnings due to specialisation.
Matthew Jaremski, David C. Wheelock, 25 October 2015
The US’s Federal Reserve System was established more than a century ago as a confederation of 12 regional districts. The selection of cities for each region’s Reserve Bank disproportionately favoured the Northeast and the state of Missouri, a fact that remains controversial to this day. This column describes how the existing banking infrastructure and population density at the time, guided the selection of these cities. Modern communication technology has reduced the need for physical proximity between Reserve and commercial banks. Debates about rezoning the Federal districts should therefore focus on the distribution of monetary policymaking authority.
Jan Fredrick P. Cruz, Ronald U Mendoza , 31 August 2015
Clinton. Bush. Kennedy. Political family dynasties have survived the establishment of democracies in the developed and developing world and, in some cases, are strengthening. This column argues that political dynasties are still with us, and that it’s fairly easy to see why. Whoever said that elections are the only time that the vote of the richest citizen is equivalent to that of the poorest needs to start rethinking whether this still holds true.
Esa Jokivuolle, Jussi Keppo, Xuchuan Yuan, 23 July 2015
Bankers’ compensation has been indicted as a contributing factor to the Global Crisis. The EU and the US have responded in different ways – the former legislated bonus caps, while the latter implemented bonus deferrals. This column examines the effectiveness of these measures, using US data from just before the Crisis. Caps are found to be more effective in reducing the risk-taking by bank CEOs.
Melissa S. Kearney, Phillip B. Levine, 16 July 2015
Early childhood education has important effects on the academic readiness and ultimate life chances of children. This column examines how the introduction of the educational television show Sesame Street in the US affected primary school outcomes for disadvantaged children. Those from counties that had better access to the broadcast had superior educational outcomes through their early school years. These effects were particularly pronounced for black, non-Hispanic children, and those living in economically disadvantaged areas. The extremely low cost per child of such interventions make them ideal for addressing educational inequality in childhood.