Economists tend to focus on reforms that came after 1979 when explaining China’s soaring economic growth. This column argues that they shouldn’t. Mao’s policies also had a huge effect and should not be ignored. Economists and policymakers would do well to look further back in history. A long-term perspective might also help them bust a few myths along the way.
Anton Cheremukhin, Mikhail Golosov, Sergei Guriev, Aleh Tsyvinski, Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Chun Chang, Kaiji Chen, Daniel Waggoner, Tao Zha, Saturday, August 1, 2015
China’s spectacular growth over the 2000s has slowed since 2013. The driving force behind the country’s growth was investment, so the key to understanding the slowdown lies in understanding what sustained investment in the past. This column shows how a preferential credit policy promoting heavy industrialisation explains the trends and cycles in China’s macroeconomy over the past two decades. This policy was not without negative consequences, particularly in terms of the distortions it introduced for business finance. Going forward, China needs to focus on creating the right incentives for banks to make loans to small productive businesses.
Jaume Ventura, Hans-Joachim Voth, Monday, July 27, 2015
Is debt really that bad? This column looks at the towering debts, rapid tax hikes, and constant state of war that led to Britain’s Industrial Revolution, showing that the devil is in the detail when assessing sovereign debt. When we consider the dangers of debt in today’s world, we should keep an eye on its potential benefits as well.
Uri Dadush, Friday, March 13, 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.
Alan J Auerbach, Kevin Hassett, Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Piketty's justification for his proposed wealth tax relies on the notion that the rate of return on capital exceeds economic growth. This column challenges this basis, arguing that it fails to account for risk. The authors also examine the relative merits of a consumption tax, which may be more valid.
Jan van Ours, Friday, February 27, 2015
The Great Recession has been characterised by an unprecedented decline in GDP, and unemployment rates remain above pre-Great Recession levels in many countries. This column argues that economic growth is a ‘one size fits all’ solution for the problem of unemployment, because the unemployment rates of different kinds of workers are strongly correlated within countries. That said, economic growth affects above all the position of young workers, and so benefits mostly those who need it the most.
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.
Michael Huberman, Christopher M. Meissner, Kim Oosterlinck, Friday, February 6, 2015
Understanding the relationship between trade and growth is still at the core of the economics profession. This column seeks to identify the pathways by which globalisation affects economic growth looking at the case of Belgium in the decades preceding the First World War. It argues that the collapse in fixed export costs promoted the entry of uncompetitive firms into export markets and as the trade component of GDP rose, the share of high performing firms contracted, slowing growth.
Stephen J. Terry, Saturday, January 17, 2015
For over a century, economists have expressed concerns with short-termism. In particular, long-term growth and investment could be sacrificed for the sake of short-term profit targets. This column examines short-termism using US firm level data on R&D and earnings targets. The author develops a macroeconomic model of long-term growth with short-term manager incentives. Managers appear to manipulate R&D to meet profit targets. The theoretical analysis suggests that such short-termism leads to 1% lower firm value together with around 0.1% lower long-term growth for the economy each year.
Enrico Minelli, Friday, December 19, 2014
Growth and inequality are back at the centre of the economic debate. This column presents a framework for interpreting Thomas Piketty’s data based on Paul Romer’s model of endogenous growth. Two balanced growth regimes are possible in this framework: one (‘merit’) with a low capital–output ratio, a high interest rate, and high growth; and another (‘rent’) with a higher capital–output ratio, a somewhat lower interest rate, and much lower growth. An increase in the returns to physical capital accumulation compared to innovation could explain a shift from ‘merit’ to ‘rent’.
Brian Pinto, Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Since the Global Crisis, concerns have grown that advanced economies are suffering from secular stagnation. This column discusses the lessons that can be learnt from the economic transition of central and eastern Europe and the emerging-market crises of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Structural reform is particularly costly in the context of a debt overhang and an overvalued exchange rate. However, the crux is not debt restructuring per se, but whether economic governance changes credibly for the better following it.
Lant Pritchett, Lawrence H. Summers, Thursday, December 11, 2014
Dozens of nations think they are in the ‘middle-income trap’. Lant Pritchett and Larry Summers present new evidence that this trap is actually just growth reverting to its mean. This matters since belief in the ‘trap’ can lead governments to misinterpret current challenges. For lower-middle-income nations the 21st century beckons, but there are still 19th century problems to address. Moreover, sustaining rapid growth requires both parts of creative destruction, but only one is popular with governments and economic elites.
Nikoloz Gigineishvili, Paolo Mauro, Ke Wang, Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Sustained rapid growth in many African economies has generated a debate on the sources and likely persistence of a so-called 'African growth miracle'. This column looks at the factors underlying growth in an especially vibrant part of the continent – the East African Community. It suggests that rapid growth has been for real and reasonably well diversified.
Giang Ho, Paolo Mauro, Friday, September 12, 2014
Forecasters often predict continued rapid economic growth into the medium and long term for countries that have recently experienced strong growth. Is this optimism warranted by past international growth experience? This column explores this question by looking at economic growth forecasts at longer-term horizons.
Alan S. Blinder, Mark Watson, Thursday, September 4, 2014
Since World War II, economic growth has been faster in the US under Democratic presidents than under Republican ones. This column documents that which party controls Congress does not matter for growth, that the Democratic growth advantage is concentrated in the first two years of a presidency, and that presidential party affiliation Granger-causes growth. Neither fiscal nor monetary policy can account for this gap. Instead, the factors that have explanatory promise are: shocks to oil prices, total factor productivity, European growth, and consumer expectations of future economic conditions.
Ejaz Ghani, Sunday, August 17, 2014
Just like the East Asian Tigers, the Lions of Africa are now growing much faster than the developed economies. However, this column shows that the growth escalators in Africa are different than in East Asia. The East Asian Tigers benefitted from a rapidly expanding manufacturing sector. The African Lions are benefitting from increases in productivity in the service sector, while the agricultural sector remains unproductive.
Marco Annunziata, Saturday, August 16, 2014
Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.
Masayuki Morikawa, Sunday, July 20, 2014
Innovation is a key driver of productivity growth, but innovation in the service sector has received relatively little attention. This column shows that the total factor productivity gap between Japanese firms with and without innovations is larger in services than in manufacturing. Whereas the percentage of firms holding patents is much higher in manufacturing than in services, trade secrets are just as important in both sectors. These results suggest that the protection of trade secrets makes an important contribution to productivity growth.
Patricia Ellen, Jaana Remes, Saturday, July 12, 2014
Brazil has grown rapidly and reduced poverty over the past decade, but it has grown more slowly than other emerging economies and its income per capita remains relatively low by global standards. This column points out that sectors of the Brazilian economy that have been opened up to international competition have outperformed those that remain heavily protected. Deeper integration into global markets and value chains could provide competitive pressures that would improve Brazil’s productivity and living standards.
Ejaz Ghani, William Kerr, Ishani Tewari, Friday, July 11, 2014
Some cities grow through specialisation others through diversity. This column measures specialisation and diversity for the manufacturing and services sectors in India. It finds that Indian districts with a broader set of industries exhibit greater employment growth. This is particularly true for low population densities, rural areas and unorganised sector, reflecting knowledge flow and the inclusive nature of employment growth due to diversity.