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.

Aart Kraay, Roy Van der Weide, 15 August 2017

Current approaches to measuring top and bottom incomes cannot track the fortunes of the same group of individuals over time. This column addresses this shortcoming by developing a new method for measuring income mobility. After accounting for mobility, the incomes of those who start out rich grow considerably more slowly, and incomes of those who start out poor grow faster, compared to commonly reported growth rates of top and bottom incomes.

Benjamin Faber, Thibault Fally, 02 August 2017

A recent literature has documented the impact of firm heterogeneity on workers’ earnings. This column assesses firm heterogeneity in the context of its impact on households’ cost of living. Rich and poor households source their consumption differently, and are therefore impacted differently by asymmetries in heterogeneous firms. An analysis suggests that moderate trade liberalisation could lead to a 1.5-2.5% lower cost-of-living inflation in retail consumption for the richest 20% of US households compared to the poorest 20%.

Ravi Kanbur, Andy Snell, 30 April 2017

Observed inequality has limitations for normative assessment, which raises the question of whether inequality measurement is redundant and should be replaced by the study of the underlying causes of inequality. This column argues that even in the context of the ‘process versus outcomes’ question, overall indices of inequality still maintain their relevance, but now as statistical tests of fairness.

John Helliwell, 06 September 2016

Discussions about inequality tend to focus on the distribution of income and wealth. This column argues for a shift in focus towards another source of inequality – subjective wellbeing. Wellbeing inequality has grown significantly for the world as a whole and in eight of the ten global regions. One way to address this inequality is to increase social trust.

Paolo Mauro, 07 August 2016

Policymakers use a well established traditional accounting method to analyse past paths and predict future paths of debt ratios. But the traditional accounting exercises underemphasise the role of economic growth. This column proposes a simple, extended accounting framework to recognise the importance of growth more fully and explicitly. It quantifies the role of economic growth in debt-to-GDP measurement for Ireland and Italy, who were similarly placed in 2012 but whose paths diverged significantly in subsequent years.

Diane Coyle, 08 February 2016

Digital technologies are having dramatic impacts on consumers, businesses, and markets. These developments have reignited the debate over the definition and measurement of common economic statistics such as GDP. This column examines the measurement challenges posed by digital innovation on the economic landscape. It shows how existing approaches are unable to capture certain elements of the consumer surplus created by digital innovation. It further demonstrates how they can misrepresent market-level shifts, leading to false assessments of production and growth.

Lucia Corno, Áureo De Paula, 13 January 2015

Addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic requires an understanding of how risky sexual behaviours change over time. This column observes that, whereas the accuracy of self-reported data depends on the likelihood of people telling the truth, the likelihood of risky behaviours being detected in tests for sexually transmitted infections is equal to the disease transmission rate. Self-reported data may therefore be a more reliable measure of risky behaviours than the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections when the probability of transmission is low.

Charles Goodhart, Jonathan Ashworth, 08 October 2014

Despite the growth of online and card payments, the ratio of currency to GDP in the UK has been rising. This column argues that rapid growth in the grey economy has been a key cause. The authors estimate that the grey economy in the UK could have expanded by around 3% of UK GDP since the beginning of the Global Crisis.

Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 27 September 2014

As demonstrated by the dramatic upward revision of Nigeria’s GDP for 2013, the choice of a benchmark year matters when computing GDP statistics. This column explains how the replacement of benchmark years creates an inconsistency between new and old national accounts series, and how different ways of resolving this inconsistency yield very different estimates of historical GDP levels and growth rates. When used to evaluate the relative historical performance of Spain and France, the interpolation procedure for splicing national accounts produces more plausible results than the conventional ‘retropolation’ approach.

Graham Loomes, Ganna Pogrebna, 02 August 2014

Researchers use various measures of individual risk attitudes to help explain a wide variety of economic behaviours, including investment decisions and firms’ entry and exit decisions. This column presents recent evidence showing that such measures are very context-specific and need to be used with caution, since the very same people can sometimes appear to be risk taking and sometimes appear to be risk averse, depending on the specific measure used. These discrepancies may arise because people have imprecise preferences under risk, and their responses are liable to be influenced by the particular methods used to elicit them.

Borağan Aruoba, Francis Diebold, Jeremy Nalewaik, Frank Schorfheide, Dongho Song, 03 December 2013

GDP can be estimated by measuring either expenditure or income. Since a penny spent is a penny earned, both methods should give the same answer, but there is substantial measurement error in both estimates. This column presents a new method of measuring US GDP that blends these two estimates. According to the new measure, GDP growth is about twice as persistent as the current headline measure implies. The new measure also makes the current recovery look stronger, especially in 2013.

Rahul Anand, Saurabh Mishra, Shanaka Peiris, 17 August 2013

The call for inclusive growth – the pace and distribution of economic growth – has been unanimously broadcast by policymakers across the world. This column presents a new method for measuring it that’s in line with the absolute definition of pro-poor growth. This integrated measurement should prove useful for researchers wanting to delve deeper into the patterns and to study the sources of inclusive growth.

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