Hideaki Tomita, 17 December 2017

Driverless vehicles are expected to become a reality on our roads in the near future. This column reviews research into the effects this will have on the economy and on society. New business models for truck operators and delivery companies, commuters putting the time they would have been driving to more productive use, and fewer accidents and greater efficiency on the road are among the developments that will benefit the economy. At the same time, driverless cars will become a major means of transport for elderly people in rural areas, while in urban areas the number of cars owned for personal use will drop sharply.

Gur Huberman, Jacob Leshno, Ciamac C. Moallemi, 16 December 2017

Cryptocurrencies have caught the attention of industry, academia, and the public at large. This column analyses an economic model of a cryptocurrency system featuring user-generated transaction fees, focusing on Bitcoin as the leading example. The Bitcoin system requires significant congestion to raise revenue and fund infrastructure or risk collapse in the long term. Moreover, the current design of the system – specifically the processing of large but infrequent blocks of transactions – makes it less efficient at raising revenue.

Lukas Kuld, John O'Hagan, 16 December 2017

Many theories have been posited for the growth in co-authorship in economic research output. This column uses new findings to assess the viability of the different explanations. Lower costs of global communication and increased pressure to produce greater research output play a role, but more information on hiring, promotional, and funding practices is required to assess the relative importance of the various factors behind the trend.

Laura Nowzohour, Livio Stracca, 15 December 2017

At an intuitive level, economists and non-economists alike find it plausible that economic sentiment and economic developments are related. This column surveys recent theoretical and empirical work on the role of sentiment as a driver of the business cycle. Sentiment measures are found to be weakly correlated at the country level, but highly correlated across countries. Further, sentiment seems most closely correlated with economic and financial variables, and tends to be forward looking.

Céline Carrère, Marcelo Olarreaga, Damian Raess, 15 December 2017

Protecting workers through the inclusion of labour clauses in trade agreements has become more common since the first such causes were included in NAFTA, but some argue that by increasing labour costs in developing countries, they represent a form of protectionism. This column uses new data to argue that there is no evidence for adverse effects on trade from labour clauses. When such clauses are strong, and if they emphasise cooperation in their implementation, they have a positive effect on the commercial interests of developing countries.

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