Conventional logic suggests that lowering the policy interest rate will stimulate consumption and investment while discouraging people from saving, but low interest rates may also prompt people to increase their saving to compensate for the low rate of return. Using data on 135 countries from 1995 to 2014, this column shows that a low-interest rate environment can yield different effects on private saving across country groups under different economic environments. A well-developed financial market, an ageing population, and output volatility can all contribute towards turning the relationship between interest rates and saving negative.
Employment subsidies have been widely used in OECD countries to counteract the recent job crisis, but their effectiveness is difficult to assess. This column summarises the findings of a recent study analysing a 2012 Spanish employment subsidy given to firms with fewer than 50 employees that make use of a new type of permanent contract. Consistent with other country studies, it fails to find robust evidence for increased employment growth due to the subsidy scheme.
Despite its many benefits, donor governments show little enthusiasm for budget aid, instead preferring to give project aid over which they have greater control. This column argues that budget aid is better than project-specific aid because it attributes full responsibility of expenditure to the recipient government, allowing voters to respond at the ballot boxes to how well the aid is used.
Policies aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship are popular around the world, but a recent literature suggests that entrepreneurship might be more predetermined than previously thought. This column uses sibling correlations to tease apart the importance of genes, family background, and neighbourhood effects for later entrepreneurship. Parental entrepreneurship and genes are the two main drivers of sibling similarities in entrepreneurship. However, children do appear to be able to learn about entrepreneurship through their family and community, so it may be possible to teach relevant skills to young people.
Over the past three years, 18 states plus the District of Columbia have implemented minimum wage increases, joining ten other states that have raised their minimum wages at least once since the last Federal increase in 2009. This column examines the impact of the more recent state increases on wages, weekly earnings, and employment among workers in the low-wage leisure and hospitality Industry. A comparison with states with no minimum wage increase since 2009 suggests that the recent legislation contributed to substantial wage increases with no discernible impact on employment levels or hours worked.
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