Roberto Ganau, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 19 August 2017

Whether organised crime undermines productivity has been studied extensively in broad terms, but not at the firm level. This column uses extensive firm-level data from across Italy to suggest that this is firmly the case, both through direct and indirect channels. The results point to a substantial negative direct effect of organised crime on firms' productivity growth. Moreover, any positive impact derived from industrial clustering and agglomeration economies is thoroughly debilitated by a strong presence of organised criminality.

Marcio Cruz, Emmanuel Milet, Marcelo Olarreaga, 18 August 2017

The reduction in the cost of exporting offered by international transactions over the internet helps small firms in developing countries reach consumers all over the world. This column argues that this bias in favour of small firms has an impact on labour markets, as small firms tend to hire unskilled workers disproportionately. By levelling the playing field between small and large firms in terms of access to international markets, online trade can contribute to reducing wage and, ultimately, income inequality.

Cevat Giray Aksoy, Francesca Dalla Pozza, Ralph De Haas, 17 August 2017

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, post-communist countries have experienced an overhaul of their economic and political institutions. This column highlights five core messages from the most recent Life in Transition Survey, which is conducted periodically by the EBRD and the World Bank to monitor how the transition process impacts people’s perceptions and attitudes. Understanding the process is important as personal experiences largely determine whether people (continue to) support the economic and political institutions that underpin their society.

Philippe Aghion, Antonin Bergeaud, Timo Boppart, Peter Klenow, Huiyu Li, 16 August 2017

Slowing growth of total factor productivity has led some to suggest that the world is running out of ideas for innovation. This column suggests that the way output is measured is vital to assessing this, and quantifies the role of imputation in output measurement bias. By differentiating between truly ‘new’ and incumbent products, it finds missing growth in the US economy. Accounting for this missing growth will allow statistical offices to improve their methodology and more readily recognise the ready availability of new ideas, but also has implications for optimal growth and inflation targeting policies.

Hugo Erken, Philip Marey, Maartje Wijffelaars, 15 August 2017

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has been an increasingly vocal proponent of protectionist measures. This column presents five reasons why he is unlikely to resort to full-blown protectionism: political motivations, WTO membership, the possibility of retaliation, the existence of global value chain integration and revenue streams, and the fact that automation rather than trade has caused most job losses in the US. If Trump does resort to protectionism, however, and other countries retaliate, US GDP could face cumulative losses of up to 4.5% over two years.

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