January 2017

Chong, Mody, Varela Sandoval, 17 January 2017, 1176 reads

Recent research suggests a point beyond which the benefits of financial development diminish, and further development can even hurt growth. This column describes how a negative relationship between credit and growth emerged strongly after 1990 and was particularly pronounced in the Eurozone, consistent with the notion that an overgrown financial sector weakens economic growth potential. It also argues that slower growth leads to more rapid financial sector expansion. Policymakers need to be aware of the possibility that causality runs in both directions.

Cernat, 17 January 2017, 693 reads

The availability of statistics on services by modes of supply has been a longstanding priority for trade negotiators and an important element of other trade policy priorities. Based on a recent Eurostat project, this column presents the first such estimates for EU trade in services. It also explores possible avenues for building a global services dataset by modes of supply building on the latest European initiatives in this area.

Daruich, Easterly, Reshef, 16 January 2017, 2825 reads

National trade policies have been at the heart of recent policy debates, with many calls for industrial policies to help pick winners. This column shows that while a few export goods account for the bulk of export value within each country, hyper-specialisations are very unstable, making it unlikely that industrial policy will work even in the medium run. The best policy to promote exports would be just to let entrepreneurs exploit new opportunities as they arise. 

Alfani, 15 January 2017, 8337 reads

Recent research into the share of wealth owned by the richest households has given us important insights into trends in inequality. This column shows how we can now estimate the share of wealth owned by the richest households in Europe, and how many they numbered, from 1300 to the present day. Throughout this time, the only significant declines in inequality were the result of the Black Death and the World Wars.

Ager, Bursztyn, Voth, 14 January 2017, 7970 reads

During World War II, the German military publicly celebrated the performance of its flying aces to incentivise their peers. This column uses newly collected data to show that, when a former colleague got recognition, flying aces performed much better without taking more risks, while average pilots did only slightly better but got themselves killed much more often. Overall the incentives may have been detrimental, which serves as a caution to those offering incentives to today's financial risk-takers.

Bright, Janssen, 13 January 2017, 8265 reads

With growth and inflation in Europe remaining low, the idea of helicopter money is slowly gaining traction with politicians and economists alike. This column presents the results of a survey that asked people how, if they were to receive an extra €200 per month to do with as they chose, they would use the money. There was broad support for the policy among respondents, but only about one in four said they would spend most of the money. The findings suggest that a larger impact might be achieved if instead the money were given to the government to finance projects.

Bindseil, Laeven, 13 January 2017, 7144 reads

The scale and scope of central bank lender of last resort operations during the Global Crisis raised concerns that central banks may be taking excessive risks and supporting moral hazard. This column argues that criticism of such operations is misguided. In the crisis, central banks did not make financial losses when acting as lender of last resort, which shows that they have applied their frameworks with prudence. 

Jaumotte, Koloskova, Saxena, 12 January 2017, 7231 reads

Rapidly ageing populations, the refugee crisis, and growing anti-immigration rhetoric have brought immigration issues to the forefront recently. Using a panel of 18 countries, this column explores the long-term effects of migration on receiving advanced economies’ GDP per capita and labour productivity. Both high- and low-skilled migrants are found to raise productivity and GDP, and these gains appear to be broadly shared across the population. 

Furman, Russ, Shambaugh, 12 January 2017, 13775 reads

Tariffs – taxes on imported goods – likely impose a heavier burden on lower-income households, as these households generally spend more on traded goods as a share of expenditure/income and because of the higher level of tariffs placed on some key consumer goods. This column estimates the tariff burden by income group and by family structure using a new dataset constructed by matching of granular data on trade and consumer spending. The findings suggest that tariffs function as a regressive tax that weighs most heavily on women and single parents.

Ravn, Sterk, 11 January 2017, 9297 reads

Recent economic events cast doubt on the standard macroeconomic models. This column looks at new economic models built on the idea that inequality and income risk matter for the business cycle and long-run outcomes. While still in their infancy, these models show promise in addressing the concerns about the old New Keynesian models, and in bringing about a shift in the way that macroeconomists think about aggregate fluctuations and stabilisation policy. 

Gerardi, Herkenhoff, Ohanian, Willen, 10 January 2017, 7684 reads

Many studies have addressed the question of why people default on their mortgages, but lack of data has meant that much of this research has omitted the effect of the owner's ability to pay. This column uses panel data on defaults and changes in income to show that ability to pay is a much more important determinant of default than previously recognised. If the head of household loses a job, for example, this is equivalent to the effect of a 35% drop in home equity. Policies targeted at increasing ability to pay may be more effective at reducing default than those that try to remedy negative equity.

den Haan, Ellison, Ilzetzki, McMahon, Reis, 10 January 2017, 5508 reads

Over the past 30 years, most central banks across the advanced economies have been given the ability to conduct monetary policy independently from interference by fiscal and political authorities. The latest Centre for Macroeconomics and CEPR expert survey invited views on whether this era of central bank independence is drawing to a close, particularly in Europe. Only 31 of the 70 respondents disagreed with the statement that there will be significant changes in the independence of monetary policy in the UK and the Eurozone in the foreseeable future. The survey also reveals that the well-established proposition among economists that a reduction in central bank independence will lead to higher inflation is no longer taken for granted, but maintaining central bank independence remains desirable.

Facchini, Margalit, Nakata, 09 January 2017, 4850 reads

Far-right parties have made considerable electoral gains around the world lately, fuelled in part by strong anti-immigration rhetoric. This column presents the results of an experiment conducted in Japan to assess whether exposure to positive information about immigration can decrease this public hostility. Such information exposure is found to increase an individual’s likelihood of supporting immigration by between 43% and 72%. This suggests that information campaigns are a very promising avenue for policymakers aiming to redress hostility to immigration.

Bughin, Lund, 09 January 2017, 4579 reads

In around 25 years, the internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, connecting billions of users and businesses worldwide and leading to an explosion in the volume of cross-border digital flows. This column attempts to measure these flows and their impact on global activity in general. Global flows of goods, services, finance, people, and data have raised world GDP by at least 10% in the past decade, with the contribution to growth of GDP from data flows nearly matching the value of global trade in physical goods and services.

Boone, Dube, Goodman, Kaplan, 08 January 2017, 5632 reads

The Unemployment Insurance programme in the US was significantly expanded during between 2008 and 2014. This column examines the effect of unemployment insurance duration on aggregate employment during the Great Recession using state-level expansions and contractions in insurance generosity. It finds a positive but not statistically significant employment impact of expanding the insurance. This suggests that the substantial insurance value of the extensions during the Great Recession was not offset in any meaningful way by any costs from weaker job growth.  

Cubel, 08 January 2017, 15138 reads

Recent explanations for the persistence of both the gender wage gap and the under-representation of women in top jobs have focused on behavioural aspects, in particular on differences in the responses of men and women to competition. This column suggests that it may not be competition itself that affects women, but the gender of their opponent. Analysis of data from thousands of expert chess games shows that women are less likely to win compared with men of the same ability, and that this is driven by women making more errors specifically when playing against men.

Piketty, 07 January 2017, 8982 reads

Anthony B. Atkinson passed away on the morning of 1 January 2017 at the age of 72, after a long illness. This column describes how he established a unique place for himself among economists over the past half-decade by putting the question of inequality at the centre of his work while demonstrating that economics is first and foremost a social and moral science, in defiance of prevailing trends. 

Björkman Nyqvist, Corno, de Walque, Svensson, 07 January 2017, 6513 reads

Traditional HIV/AIDS education campaigns have not been completely effective in curtailing new infections. One potential reason behind this is that most of the infections occur among individuals who are willing to take risks when it comes to sexual behaviour, and campaigns have failed to specifically target these people. This column describes a new HIV intervention trialled in Lesotho that used a lottery to target such individuals and incentivise safer practices. HIV incidence was reduced by more than a fifth in treatment groups over the trial period. These results, combined with practical and cost advantages, suggest that such interventions could prove invaluable in the fight against HIV.

Tomb, Trivedi, 06 January 2017, 4384 reads

It has become consensus to argue that we have approached ‘peak trade’ or the ‘end of globalisation’: that the past five years of stagnant global trade growth are not temporary, but instead reflect persistent forces that are likely to drive a continued stagnation in global trade over the long run. Though this view preceded the Brexit referendum, this column argues that it has now been amplified by the UK’s vote to leave the EU and the prospect that, potentially, US President-elect Trump and other leaders across developed markets will implement protectionist trade policies. The authors consider the arguments for ‘peak trade’, and conclude that, though downside risks to the trade outlook are prominent, there is little evidence – yet – that the current stagnation in global trade is predestined to extend far into the future.

Portes, Forte, 05 January 2017, 8771 reads

The various projections of the impact of Brexit on the UK economy that were produced during the referendum campaign omitted the economic impact of changes in migration to the UK. This column presents plausible scenarios for future migration flows and estimates of the likely impacts. The potential negative impact of Brexit-induced reductions in openness to migration on the UK economy could well equal that resulting from Brexit-induced reductions in trade.

Cahuc, Charlot, Malherbet, Benghalem, Limon, 05 January 2017, 4039 reads

Temporary job contracts account for a substantial proportion of the workforce in countries such as France and Spain, but they can result in high job turnover and instability. This column assesses the impact of government policies that impose taxes on temporary contracts to induce employers to lengthen job durations. Such policies a negative impact on the labour market, reducing the mean duration of jobs and decreasing job creation. The introduction of open-ended contracts with no termination cost for separations occurring at short tenure may be more effective.

, 04 January 2017, 6111 reads

One of the factors driving house price growth in many countries is foreign investor demand. Using new UK data, this column argues that foreign investment has had a significant positive effect on house price growth in the last 15 years. The effect is not limited to expensive homes but ‘trickles down’ to less expensive properties, and is stronger where housing supply is less elastic. Foreign investment is also found to reduce the rate of home ownership, but there is no evidence of an effect on the housing stock or share of vacant homes.

Kozeniauskas, Veldkamp, 03 January 2017, 4028 reads

Uncertainty shocks are a major avenue of research in the quest to explain business cycles, as well as asset prices and financial crises. This column argues that three conceptually distinct types of uncertainty that are often modelled independently – ‘macro’ uncertainty about an aggregate variable such as GDP, ‘micro’ uncertainty about firms’ individual outcomes, and ‘higher-order’ uncertainty that people have about the beliefs of others – are in fact related because all three are tied to disaster risk.

Aksoy, Carpenter, Frank, 03 January 2017, 12456 reads

Previous studies on labour market discrimination based on sexual orientation have not revealed whether reported differences in earnings have been due to differences in the samples, populations, or outcomes, nor what the likely cause might be. Using a UK-wide dataset of sexual orientation and labour market earnings, this column shows that the overall difference in earnings for men who identify as gay is near zero irrespective of whether they are in a partnership or not, while women with a lesbian orientation have an earnings premium of about 5.5%. Specialisation explains earnings differences that depend on partnership status, though outside London there is some evidence of discrimination.

Masciandaro, 02 January 2017, 12197 reads

The discussion of the delayed lift-off in US monetary policy is just the latest episode in a long-lasting debate over the causes of inertia in monetary policy. This column approaches the issue by assuming that psychological drivers can influence the decisions of central bankers. Loss aversion is one source of behavioural bias which can explain delays in changing the stance of monetary policy, including the fear of lift-off after a recession.

Okubo, Tomiura, 02 January 2017, 6965 reads

The core-periphery gap raises important questions for economic geography. Using Japanese data, this column examines firms’ decision to separate non-production activities from production plant facilities. Large plants, plants which intensively purchase materials, and plants located further from the core are more likely to have separate corporate headquarters, though the magnitude of this effect is small. Small-sized plants appear to be especially vulnerable to remoteness from urban cores.