Americans work too long (and too often at strange times)
Daniel S. Hamermesh, Elena Stancanelli 29 September 2014
American employees put in longer workweeks than Europeans. They are also more likely to work at undesirable times, such as nights and weekends. This column argues that the phenomena of long hours and strange hours are related. One possibility for this is cultural – Americans simply enjoy working at strange times. Another, more probable explanation, is the greater inequality of earnings of low-skilled workers in the US, compared to Europeans.
The facts on work hours and timing
The average US workweek is 41 hours, 3 hours longer than Britain’s and even longer than in Germany, France, Spain, or the Netherlands (see the Table below).
work hours, night work, weekend work, US, Europe
Cross-country differences in perceptions of inequality
Judith Niehues 28 September 2014
Income inequality is high in the US, but the support of social welfare programmes is low. In Europe, income inequality is low and the welfare states are generous. This column argues that this paradox is largely due to perceived inequality. Many Europeans believe that there is high inequality in their countries, justifying the need for redistributive policies. Americans, however, are less concerned with income differences and with respective redistributive state intervention.
The well-known and frequently tested median voter theorem predicts a positive relationship between income inequality and state redistribution; if the decisive median voter’s income is below the social average, he votes for more welfare redistribution because he expects to benefit from progressively financed welfare programmes. However, this theory does not perform very well when confronted with data. Although income inequality is high in the US, support for welfare state programmes is relatively low. In contrast, income differences in European countries are substantially lower.
Poverty and income inequality Welfare state and social Europe
income inequality, perceived income inequality, Europe, US
Is the ECB doing QE?
Charles Wyplosz 12 September 2014
Last week, the ECB announced that it would begin purchasing securities backed by bank lending to households and firms. Whereas markets and the media have generally greeted this announcement with enthusiasm, this column identifies reasons for caution. Other central banks’ quantitative easing programmes have involved purchasing fixed amounts of securities according to a published schedule. In contrast, the ECB’s new policy is demand-driven, and will only be effective if it breaks the vicious circle of recession and negative credit growth.
The 4 September announcement by Chairman Mario Draghi has been greeted with enthusiasm by the markets and the media. It has been long awaited, and many believe that the ECB has finally delivered. This is not sure. The ECB intends to buy large amounts of securities backed by bank lending to households (mortgages) and to firms.
Exchange rates Financial markets Monetary policy
quantitative easing, QE, monetary policy, unconventional monetary policy, ECB, securitisation, bank lending, Europe, eurozone, Subprime, stress tests, deleveraging, recapitalisation, depreciation, exchange rates, euro, central banking
To exit the Great Recession, central banks must adapt their policies and models
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang 10 September 2014
During the Great Moderation, inflation targeting with some form of Taylor rule became the norm at central banks. This column argues that the Global Crisis called for a new approach, and that the divergence in macroeconomic performance since then between the US and the UK on the one hand, and the Eurozone on the other, is partly attributable to monetary policy differences. The ECB’s model of the economy worked well during the Great Moderation, but is ill suited to understanding the Great Recession.
“Practical men…are usually the slaves…[of] some academic scribbler of a few years back” – John Maynard Keynes.
For monetary policy to be most effective, Michael Woodford emphasised the crucial importance of managing expectations. For this purpose, he advocated that central banks adopt explicit rules for setting interest rates to check inflation and recession, and went on to note that:
Global crisis Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
Taylor rule, forward guidance, great moderation, global crisis, Great Recession, quantitative easing, DSGE models, expectations, tapering, US, UK, Europe, eurozone, ECB, Bank of England, central banking, IMF, unconventional monetary policy
Is Europe saving away its future? European public funding for research in the era of fiscal consolidation
Reinhilde Veugelers 28 August 2014
The Crisis affected public spending. Research and innovation is one area often highlighted as needing protection. This column does not find strong evidence that European countries sacrificed research and innovation more than other government expenditure. However, there is strong heterogeneity across countries. Innovation lagging and fiscally weak countries cut R&I spending while innovation-leading forged it ahead. Research of this divide and long-term growth is still limited.
Trends in public R&I budgets in EU countries during the crisis
The dangerous cocktail in many European countries of high debt and subdued growth calls for smart fiscal consolidation. Cost-cutting programmes should minimise the potentially negative short-term effect on economic activity, while establishing a foundation for long-term growth, with growth-enhancing public expenditure safeguarded from cuts, or even increased (Teulings 2012).
EU policies Productivity and Innovation
research and innovation, Europe, public spending
Secular stagnation: Facts, causes, and cures – a new Vox eBook
Coen Teulings, Richard Baldwin 10 September 2014
The CEPR Press eBook on secular stagnation has been viewed over 80,000 times since it was published on 15 August 2014. The PDF remains freely downloadable, but as the European debate on secular stagnation is moving into policy circles, we decided to also make it a Kindle book. This is available from Amazon; all proceeds will help defray VoxEU expenses.
Teaser from original column posted on 15 August 2014
Six years after the Crisis and the recovery is still anaemic despite years of zero interest rates. Is ‘secular stagnation’ to blame? This column introduces an eBook that gathers the views of leading economists including Summers, Krugman, Gordon, Blanchard, Koo, Eichengreen, Caballero, Glaeser, and a dozen others. It is too early to tell whether secular stagnation is really secular, but if it is, current policy tools will be obsolete. Policymakers should start thinking about potential solutions.
Global crisis Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
interest rates, US, Europe, Japan, investment, macroeconomics, Great Recession, zero lower bound, savings, secular stagnation, SecStag debate
Rethinking African solar power for Europe
Emanuele Massetti, Elena Ricci 23 July 2014
Concentrated solar power generation in Northern African and Middle Eastern deserts could potentially supply up to 20% of European power demand. This column evaluates the technological, economic, and political feasibility of this idea. Although concentrated solar power is a proven technology that can work at scale, it is currently four or five times more expensive than fossil fuels. Concentrated solar power could play an important role in Europe’s energy mix after 2050, but only if geo-political challenges can be overcome.
The DESERTEC Foundation has suggested that up to 20% of power demand in Europe can be obtained by connecting African deserts to European cities (Figure 1). The idea is to build a large number of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) countries, and to transmit electricity to Europe by means of very efficient high-voltage direct-current cables.
Europe, Africa, climate change, Renewable energy, energy security, Middle East, deserts, solar, photovoltaic, wind, concentrated solar power
European banks: Between a rock (need of more capital) and a hard place (low profitability)
Marco Onado 23 February 2014
The financial crisis showed that European banks were much more fragile than expected. This column discusses some of the changes implemented by banks since the crisis. Overall, their responses have been minor. Currently, most banks remain highly leveraged, yet yielding low returns. Redressing this could require a reduction of non-core assets and/or a slashing of operating costs. Ultimately, something has to give. European banks have yet to reach a post-crisis equilibrium.
The financial crisis has put to the forefront the long-debated issue of banks’ capital adequacy, showing that banks were much more fragile than they (and their regulators) pretended, also because they were allowed to push their leverage to levels much higher than any industrial company, or even a hedge fund, has never dreamt of.
Europe, bank leverage, post-crisis equilibrium
Clarifying the debate about deflation concerns
Mickey Levy 21 February 2014
A popular view among economic commentators is that rich countries face a serious risk of deflation, and should adopt aggressive macroeconomic stimulus policies to ward it off. This column argues that despite similar headline inflation rates, the US, Europe, and Japan in fact face very different macroeconomic conditions. In the US, much of the recent disinflation is attributable to positive supply-side developments. In Europe, an aggressive round of quantitative easing might encourage policymakers to delay the reforms that are necessary to avoid a prolonged Japanese-style malaise.
A common theme among many economic policymakers, financial market participants, and the media is that rich industrialised nations face a high risk of deflation, and that deflation always harms economic performance and so must be combatted with aggressive macroeconomic stimulus. Such broad assessments are misleading, and under certain circumstances may lead to misguided policies. More clarity on the topic is required.
Global crisis Monetary policy
eurozone, US, Europe, Japan, deflation, disinflation, quantitative easing
Efficient retail payments: An untapped source for reviving growth in Europe?
Iftekhar Hasan, Tuomas Takalo 24 January 2014
Efficient retail payments are associated not only with lower direct costs but also with indirect benefits, and ultimately – with enhanced economic growth. This column presents research on different retail payment habits in the Eurozone. A correlation exists between the forms of payment in a country and its recent economic fortune. There are a number of methods to promote more efficient payments. The biggest challenge to increase the efficiency of retail payments in Europe is the heavy regulation and barriers to entry of new payment methods.
Retail payments are an inherent part of most adults’ daily life in Europe. But promotion of efficient retail payments is seldom an inherent part of European growth agendas. It should be.
Microeconomic regulation Productivity and Innovation
Europe, economic growth, retail, efficiency