Is Piketty’s ‘Second Law of Capitalism’ fundamental?
Per Krusell, Tony Smith 01 June 2014
Thomas Piketty’s new book has been widely praised for its empirical contribution, but his prediction of rising inequality rests on economic theory. This column argues that Piketty’s pessimistic forecast is based on an extreme – and unrealistic – assumption about households’ saving behaviour. According to standard theory, the wealth–income ratio would increase only modestly as growth falls, so declining growth would not be a powerful force for generating high inequality.
Over the last several weeks, we have thought quite a bit about the main message in Thomas Piketty’s now world-famous book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Piketty 2014). We have also discussed it at great length with colleagues. In sum, at least in our departments, there has been a massive collective effort at interpreting both the material presented in the book and the background material on which the book builds. In this column we would like to present one perspective on the book that does not seem to have attracted sufficient attention in the public discussions.
Poverty and income inequality
growth, Inequality, wealth, saving, savings
How highly educated immigrants raise native wages
Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, Chad Sparber 29 May 2014
Immigrants to the US are drawn from both ends of the education spectrum. This column looks at the effect of highly educated immigrants – in particular, those with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics – on total factor productivity growth. The authors find that foreign STEM workers can explain 30% to 60% of US TFP growth between 1990 and 2010.
Immigration to the US has risen tremendously in recent decades. Though media attention and popular discourse often focus on illegal immigrants or the high foreign-born presence among less-educated workers, the data show that immigrants are drawn from both ends of the education spectrum. At the low end, immigrants grew from 5% of workers with a high school degree or less in 1970 to 20.8% in 2010. At the high end, the figure rose from 7.3% to 18.2% for those with graduate degrees over the same period.1
Labour markets Migration Productivity and Innovation
US, growth, productivity, wages, immigration, innovation, complementarities, STEM
DynEmp: New cross-country evidence on the role of young firms in job creation, growth, and innovation
Chiara Criscuolo, Peter N. Gal, Carlo Menon 26 May 2014
Young firms are known to play a central role in job creation. This column presents the results of a new OECD project on the dynamics of employment (DynEmp) based on an innovative methodology using firm-level data. It confirms that young firms play a central role in creating jobs, and in enhancing growth and innovation. Public policies can help by enabling firms to experiment, and by fostering the reallocation of resources towards the most productive firms. Structural reforms to product, labour, and capital markets, as well as bankruptcy laws that do not overly penalise failure, are particularly relevant.
Since well before the crisis, many OECD economies have been confronted with sluggish productivity growth. In the aftermath of the crisis, job creation has also stalled and has become an important policy issue. Business dynamics are at the core of the creative destruction process. Available evidence points to significant cross-country heterogeneity in the dynamism of businesses, even after taking into account differences in sectoral composition. This raises policymakers’ interest in understanding the role of framework conditions in this area.
Labour markets Productivity and Innovation
R&D, employment, growth, OECD, job creation, business cycles, firms, start-ups
Democracy causes economic development?
Daron Acemoglu, Suresh Naidu, James A Robinson, Pascual Restrepo 19 May 2014
Many analysts view democracy as a neutral or negative factor for growth. This column discusses new evidence showing that democracy has a robust and sizable pro-growth effect. The central estimates suggest that a country that switches from non-democracy to democracy achieves about 20% higher GDP per capita over the subsequent three decades.
A belief that democracy is bad for economic growth is common in both academic political economy as well as the popular press. Robert Barro’s seminal research in this area concluded that “More political rights do not have an effect on growth...The first lesson is that democracy is not the key to economic growth” (Barro 1997, pp. 1 and 11). Meanwhile, reacting to the rise of China, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman argues:
Development Economic history Education
Greening Economics: It is time
Carlo Carraro, Marianne Fay, Marzio Galeotti 26 April 2014
The concept of environmental capital is throughly entrenched in policy dicussions but largely missing from mainstream economic curriculums. This column argues environmental externalities, climate change, and constraints on natural resources will constantly and deeply affect humankind’s future. The teaching of economics, especially growth economics, should stop ignoring them.
Shortly after the inception of the financial crisis, The Economist published an article on the split the crisis had brought about among macroeconomists and on the self-criticism some of the most renowned names of academia were applying to the discipline they have been teaching. Economists such as Robert Barro, Bradford DeLong, Paul Krugman, and Willem Buiter questioned the ‘economic model’ they had long used as a reference tool to initiate crowds of students to the dismal science.
growth, teaching, Green growth, natural capital, policy formation
Sustainable growth requires a long-term focus
Pascal Lamy, Ian Goldin 28 March 2014
Excessive short-termism is always a problem for policy, but the Global Crisis has brought it sharply into focus. This column introduces a report that discusses how a shift to longer-term solutions is necessary and possible. A key message is that businesses as well as governments need to take a longer-term view. The report identifies ways to overcome the current impasse in key economic, climate, trade, security, and other negotiations.
Just when we thought high-frequency trading couldn’t get any faster, a US communications company is developing a high-speed laser network between the New Jersey data centres of the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ stock exchange, to shave an additional few nanoseconds off high-frequency trading times.
Environment Financial markets Global crisis International trade
growth, climate change, trade, environment, corporate governance, global crisis, high-frequency trading, short-termism, mark-to-market accounting
Redistribution, inequality, and sustainable growth: Reconsidering the evidence
Jonathan D Ostry, Andrew Berg, Charalambos Tsangarides 06 March 2014
Inequality has the potential to undermine growth. However, greater redistribution requires higher tax rates, which reduce incentives to work and save. Moreover, the evidence that inequality is bad for growth might simply reflect the fact that more unequal societies choose to redistribute more, and those efforts are antithetical to growth. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on pre- and post-tax inequality. The authors find that income equality is protective of growth, and that redistributive transfers on average have little if any direct adverse impact on growth.
Rising income inequality looms high on the global policy agenda, reflecting not only fears of its pernicious social and political effects (including questions about the consistency of extreme inequality with democratic governance), but also its economic implications.
Development Poverty and income inequality
growth, Inequality, redistribution
Making city lights shine brighter
Shahid Yusuf, Danny Leipziger,
Urbanisation and GDP per capita are positively correlated across countries. However, when the sample is restricted to developing countries, urbanisation and growth are more loosely related – particularly in Africa. CEPR Policy Insight 71 argues that the low share of manufacturing in developing-country cities may help to explain this discrepancy. Strengthening urban finances, embracing technology, improving skills, and stimulating the formal sector will help cities to promote growth. Since decisions affecting urban development can have lasting impact, longer-term planning deserves greater attention than it is currently receiving.
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Making city lights burn brighter
Danny Leipziger, Shahid Yusuf 03 March 2014
Urbanisation and GDP per capita are positively correlated across countries. However, when the sample is restricted to developing countries, urbanisation and growth are more loosely related – particularly in Africa. This column argues that the low share of manufacturing in developing-country cities may help to explain this discrepancy. Strengthening urban finances, embracing technology, improving skills, and stimulating the formal sector will help cities to promote growth. Since decisions affecting urban development can have lasting impact, longer-term planning deserves greater attention than it is currently receiving.
Urbanisation and per capita GDP are well correlated.1 According to a recent estimate by Gilles Duranton using cross-country data for 2012 (see Figure 1), each percentage point of urbanisation is associated with a five-percentage-point increase in GDP per capita, with urbanisation apparently explaining 60% of the variation in incomes.
Figure 1. Urbanisation and GDP per capita
growth, Inequality, externalities, cities, urbanisation, agglomeration, slums
Gaps, cracks and lacunae: The finance and growth nexus in low-income countries
Nauro F Campos, Stefan Dercon 01 March 2014
Financial development and growth have long been linked. This column argues that there remain fundamental lacunae in our understanding of the finance-growth nexus. Three main areas for future research are identified: aid, institutions and technology.
Are quantitative and qualitative improvements in financial markets, institutions, instruments, and intermediaries positively and closely associated to the processes of economic growth and development? Does finance cause growth? Once upon a time, economists were deeply divided on these issues. Until about 1990, when endogenous growth gained prominence, there were few economists (notably Joseph Schumpeter) that believed financial development drove growth. The Schumpeterian view is that growth is driven by innovation and innovation is driven by credit. Without finance there is no growth.
growth, Low-income countries, Finance