January 2012

Claessens, van Horen, 31 January 2012, 22217 reads

How did foreign banks adjust their investment and lending decisions during the global financial crisis? This column uses a new and comprehensive database to show that the crisis dramatically halted foreign direct investment in banking and that foreign banks often cut back on lending more than their domestic competitors. While exits have so far been limited, this is likely to change in the coming years.

Costa-i-Font, Jofre-Bonet, 30 January 2012, 19734 reads

Striving for the perfect body can take its toll, both physically and mentally. This column shows how excessive preoccupation with self-appearance can give rise to preventable eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, among European females. It is time for policy action to shift people’s perceptions of their ideal body closer to what is healthiest.

Thorbecke, 29 January 2012, 22089 reads

Understanding China’s economy is becoming as difficult as it is important. This is particularly the case for China’s exports and its exchange rate, which have been the source of controversy and intense debate in recent years. Shedding light on the issue, this column disaggregates China’s processing trade, with some surprising implications for policy in the region and elsewhere.

Claessens, van Horen, 28 January 2012, 20465 reads

Foreign banks on domestic soil have always been controversial. This column presents a newly collected, comprehensive database on bank ownership for 137 countries over the period 1995–2009. It shows that current market shares of foreign banks average 20% in OECD countries and 50% elsewhere. In developing countries, however, foreign bank presence is correlated with less private credit.

Dreher, Fuchs, 27 January 2012, 24594 reads

China is often accused of providing ‘rogue aid’. China is said to be more interested in securing natural resources, export markets, and political alliances than concerned about the development of needy countries This column looks at the data on China’s aid allocations between 1996 and 2005. It finds that China is in fact no more self-serving than most Western donors.

Woodruff, 27 January 2012, 10507 reads

Christopher Woodruff talks to Viv Davies about his recent research in Sri Lanka that looks at the constraints to growth of micro-enterprises and how to generate job creation; he highlights the effects of wage subsidies, savings programmes, entrepreneurship training, firm registration and the transition from small informal firms to more dynamic enterprises. They also discuss a new 5-year competitive research grants programme, directed by Woodruff and co-ordinated by CEPR, that focuses on private enterprise development in low-income countries.

Bergsten, Kirkegaard, 26 January 2012, 37421 reads

Policy reactions to the Eurozone crisis are seen by many as short-sighted, incoherent, and driven by political expediency. This column disagrees. What we are seeing is a game of chicken among the key political and economic powers in Europe. As the crash looms ever closer, the right deals will be struck and Europe will emerge stronger and with its currency intact.

Ghosh, Qureshi, 26 January 2012, 23187 reads

In the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, there was a rapid surge in net capital flows to emerging market economies. The subsequent decline in recent months has been even more rapid. Looking at data on 56 emerging market economies between 1980 and 2009, this column examines the causes of the mercurial movement of capital flows across countries and outlines the implications for policy.

Guiso, Herrera, Morelli, 25 January 2012, 11671 reads

What good might come from Europe’s crisis? Profligate governments in Italy and Greece, while pandering to the masses, have left their countries with crippling debt. This column draws parallels with Latin America and argues that the current hardship may sound a death knell for populism in southern Europe, as it has elsewhere.

Henning, Kessler, 25 January 2012, 21614 reads

In the last few months, several Vox columns have drawn parallels between Europe today and an emerging – and even less stable – United States in the eighteenth century. This column stresses that Europe’s leaders in search of a fiscal union need not seek to replicate the US experience but they should at least learn from it.

Magud, Reinhart, Vesperoni, 24 January 2012, 28576 reads

The prospect of expansionary monetary policy in Europe and elsewhere has triggered memories of hot flows of money, credit booms, and instability in emerging economies. This column shows that during capital-inflow bonanzas credit grows more rapidly and its composition tilts to foreign currency more markedly in economies with less flexible exchange-rate regimes. It proposes policies to help mitigate the boom and bust in these countries.

De Grauwe, Ji, 23 January 2012, 30495 reads

Economists now agree that markets were wrong in placing the same risk premium on Greek bonds as on German bonds. But this column adds that today the same markets are also wrong in overestimating the risk that the periphery countries will default. Policymakers looking to calm such skittish markets should take note.

Ghani, 23 January 2012, 20746 reads

Mention China and India to economists and their first thought will be rapid growth. Their second thought might be how differently the two economies are achieving this: China through manufacturing, India through services. This column asks whether that stereotype may be changing.

Singh, 22 January 2012, 23889 reads

Regulators around the world are looking to regulate derivatives. This column argues, however, that current proposals for centralised counterparties are misguided. Instead of reducing risk in the notorious over-the-counter derivatives markets, they may simply shift it around. It calls for a tax on the derivative liabilities of large banks to tackle the problem at its source.

Olken , Pande, 21 January 2012, 16422 reads

Recent innovations in methodology have sparked a remarkable expansion in economists’ ability to measure corruption. This column reviews these new techniques, which range from inferring corrupt links from stock prices to attempting to observe bribes undercover. It concludes that, while corruption is prevalent in poor countries, there remains little consensus about its magnitude or the best way to fight it.

Cadot, Fernandes, Gourdon, Mattoo, 21 January 2012, 14378 reads

With finances getter ever tighter in developed countries, policymakers are starting to ask whether giving money to developing countries can still be justified. Taking the example of Aid for Trade, billions have been spent with little robust evidence of its effectiveness. This column argues that trade policy needs to learn from other development work and start with rigorous impact evaluations – otherwise the best programmes could easily get cut.

Bentolila, Dolado, Jimeno, 20 January 2012, 29579 reads

Spain has a lower public debt-to-GDP ratio than not only Italy, but also France, Germany, and the UK. So why is it threatened with another downgrade? This column points to the fundamental problem with Spain’s economy – the insider-outsider divide that has led to the highest unemployment rate in the Eurozone. It proposes a single open-ended contract for all workers – a difficult solution whose time has come.

Corsetti, 20 January 2012, 10586 reads

Giancarlo Corsetti talks to Viv Davies about using cumulated inflation differentials as a guide for pricing sovereign risk across Eurozone countries. They also discuss the fiscal compact, the debate on growth versus austerity in the Eurozone and the recent downgrading of Italy and other Eurozone countries. Corsetti is of the opinion that liquidity support is essential for, and compatible, with reforms in the failing Eurozone economies.

Levy, 19 January 2012, 42129 reads

The Eurozone crisis rolls on. This column argues that Europe’s leaders must do more to address the gap in competitiveness between the lean north and the bloated south. The answer is as simple to say as it is difficult to do - follow Germany’s example and keep wages low.

Fernández-Villaverde, Guner, Greenwood, 19 January 2012, 27128 reads

Does shame impact teenage sexual behaviour in modern times, when contraception is readily available? Do peers matter for this behaviour? What is the relative importance of each of these forces? This columns aims to answer these questions using a survey covering 90,000 US high-school students. It argues that shame is an important driver of sexual behaviour among teenagers even when peer-group effects are considered.

Bosker, de Ree, 18 January 2012, 14748 reads

Civil wars are devastating to a country’s development perspectives. What’s more, they often spread across borders. But this column argues that only ethnic civil wars pose a significant threat to neighbouring countries’ stability. Countries with ethnic links to a neighbouring ethnic conflict see their chances of experiencing civil conflict increase by six percentage points.

Vayanos, Woolley, 18 January 2012, 21216 reads

According to classical economics, there are no gains to be made in an efficient market. Yet markets are often far from efficient and the gains are often far from insignificant. So should investors follow the herd or rely on best guesses of fair value? This column argues that the optimal strategy depends on whether you are in for the short or long term.

Campos, Jaimovich, Panizza, 17 January 2012, 24888 reads

How do countries get into debt? And how does this debt rise so fast? The short answer may be obvious, but this column shows that the longer answer certainly isn’t.

Ginsburgh, 16 January 2012, 25223 reads

Economists have shown that wine tasters can’t tell Bordeaux from budget plonk, movie critics are prone to giving biased reviews, and Olympic judges are often judging what’s best for them to say rather than what’s in front of them. This column asks why we should expect credit-rating agencies, with their own unique set of ignorance and incentives, to be any different.

Becker, Woessmann, 15 January 2012, 16069 reads

Does religion affect suicide? This column presents new evidence from 19th century Prussia showing that suicide rates are much higher in Protestant than in Catholic areas, and that this reflects a causal effect of Protestantism. It also suggests that economic modelling can help understand why this is so.

Aizenman, Riera-Crichton, Edwards, 14 January 2012, 18153 reads

Last year’s surge in commodity prices was a reminder, if we needed one, of the problems caused by terms-of-trade volatility in emerging economies. This column looks at the real exchange rate adjustments to commodity terms-of-trade shocks in the region exposed to the highest volatility – Latin America. It finds that active reserve management not only lowers the short-run impact of shocks, but also substantially reduces real exchange rate volatility.

Becker, 13 January 2012, 15353 reads

Sascha Becker of the University of Warwick talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his research on the important role that formal education played in facilitating industrialisation in nineteenth century Prussia. They also discuss the relationship between education and fertility, and historical evidence in support of ‘unified growth theory’. The interview was recorded in August 2010.

Ghani, 13 January 2012, 49426 reads

What will India and other South Asian countries look like in 2025? The optimistic view is that India will achieve double digit growth rates but the pessimistic view is that growth will be derailed by several transformational challenges. This column introduces a new book asking what the story between now and 2025 might involve, and what can be done to reshape tomorrow.

Levy Yeyati, Cohan, 12 January 2012, 15127 reads

Four years ago, there was growing support for the idea of ‘decoupling’ – that emerging markets were becoming less affected by business cycle swings in developed economies. Then came the global crisis. Focusing on Latin America, this column argues that the 2010s will be a far harder decade. But that might not be such a bad thing if it forces these economies to look again at their growth strategies.

Goldstein, 11 January 2012, 19007 reads

Throughout the European debt soap opera, Europe’s leaders have expressed their willingness to “do whatever it takes” to restore stability and save the euro. This column argues that, too often, policymakers have in fact been “doing whatever it takes” to serve the banks.

Masciandaro, Passarelli, 11 January 2012, 16043 reads

Italy’s prime minister, Mario Monti, is the latest in a growing line of senior public figures to support the idea of a financial transaction tax - also known as a Tobin tax or Robin Hood tax. Rather than give a case for or against, this column looks at what the realistic options are and asks whether they will be better for Europe, or worse.

Chamley, 10 January 2012, 23914 reads

Is it time for Eurobonds? This column argues that Eurobonds have always been the right solution. Every successful union throughout history has needed to create a proper financial instrument of sovereign debt – and the Eurozone is no different.

Fally, 10 January 2012, 19225 reads

As the oft-cited iPhone example illustrates, production has become increasingly fragmented across countries. This column presents recent research, however, suggesting that this trend may be reversing for manufacturing plants in the US. It shows that intermediate goods account for a decreasing fraction of output value, while industries that are closer to the final consumer contribute to an increasing share of GDP.

Hanushek, Woessmann, Link, 09 January 2012, 13803 reads

We are increasingly told that school decisions are best made by head teachers who have a better knowledge of the demands on schools and the capacity of their staff. This column presents new research suggesting that local autonomy can indeed work, but only in countries where public examinations can help to keep teachers on their toes.

Corsetti, Pesaran, 09 January 2012, 17397 reads

High debt levels, house price booms, uncompetitive labour markets – the list of possible reasons why some European countries are facing the wrath of the market are many. This column argues that they all boil down to one measure – inflation. Using the inflation differentials as a guide is the first step to seeing what countries need to adjust – and by how much.

Tonks, 08 January 2012, 33443 reads

Ever since the fall of Lehman Brothers, it has been a popular view – and one increasingly held by officials – that banker bonuses are at least partly to blame. This column compares executive pay in banks with other companies and finds, contrary to the growing consensus, that the financial sector differs not so much in its reward for taking risks, but in its reward for expansion.

Beck, Wagner, Todorov, 07 January 2012, 15555 reads

The global crisis has pushed government finances to breaking point. Forced to bailout their domestic banks, they have come to realise some harsh truths in the words: “Banks are international in life and national in death”. This column explores whether a supranational financial supervisor might be able to alleviate the pressures on national regulators and governments, particularly in Europe, and what barriers lie in the way.

Michalopoulos, Papaioannou, 06 January 2012, 118097 reads

The 'Scramble for Africa' – the artificial drawing of African political boundaries among European powers in the end of the 19th century – led to the partitioning of several ethnicities across newly created African states. This columns shows that partitioned ethnic groups have suffered significantly longer and more devastating civil wars. It also uncovers substantial spillovers as ethnic conflict spreads from the historical homeland of groups partitioned to nearby areas where non-split ethnicities reside.

Garon, 06 January 2012, 11418 reads

Sheldon Garon of Princeton University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his book, ‘Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves’. He contrasts continental European and East Asian countries, which have over many decades encouraged their citizens to save, with the US, which has promoted mass consumption and reliance on credit, culminating in the global financial meltdown. The interview was recorded in London in November 2011. [Also read the transcript]

Sunde, Cervellati, 06 January 2012, 22684 reads

Does rising life expectancy boost economic growth? Existing evidence is mixed, with the relationship appearing to change over time. This column presents recent research showing that living longer may have a negative effect on growth to begin with, but once fertility declines the effect becomes significantly positive. Moreover, higher life expectancy increases the probability of such a switch in fertility behaviour.

Cafiso, 05 January 2012, 31344 reads

2011 was the year the Eurozone began to buckle. The weight of debt taken on following the global financial crisis two years earlier proved too much for some member countries. This column examines how debt-to-GDP ratios increased over that period, the reasons why some economies fared better than others, and what may be in store for debt in 2012 and beyond.

Winter-Ebmer, Schneeweis, Fort, 05 January 2012, 12263 reads

Demographic research typically reports negative correlations between schooling and fertility. But this column argues more education can lead to an increase in the number of children per woman. It uses data for more than 6000 individuals from eight European countries where compulsory schooling reforms took place between 1942 and 1967 and finds that one additional year of compulsory schooling increases the number of children by approximately 0.2 and the probability to remain childless by around ten percentage points.

Altomonte, di Mauro, Ottaviano, Vicard, Rungi, 04 January 2012, 19652 reads

Trade in today’s global economy is not a simple game of exchange-rate muddling. The complex web of global value chains ensures that products marked “Made in China” are often in fact made all over the world. This column looks at firm-level data from French firms between 2007 and 2009 and explores how their structure affects their behaviour, with insights for policymakers the world over.

Wyplosz, 03 January 2012, 16611 reads

Another year, and the Eurozone crisis lingers on. This column asks why, and discusses what can be done. It proposes a solution that can be achieved without the pain of a new EU treaty.

Peeters, den Reijer, 03 January 2012, 37600 reads

While EU leaders are drafting a fiscal compact, the problem of intra-European real exchange-rate misalignments remains. This column argues that reducing imbalances implies a focus on competitiveness, and hence on the alignment of nominal-wage growth with labour-productivity growth.

Gersbach, 03 January 2012, 10297 reads

Incumbent politicians have a host of advantages in US elections; members of the US Congress are typically re-elected about 90% of the time. This column argues that such a head start can often be bad for the country, with leaders focusing on short-term populist policies rather than the greater good. It suggests raising the bar for incumbent candidates.