November 2017

Färnstrand Damsgaard, Hjertstrand, Norbäck, Persson, Vasconcelos, 23 November 2017, 382 reads

Most developed economies provide significant subsidies to small businesses to encourage innovation. This column argues that while subsidies to reduce entry costs may increase entrepreneurial entry, they can also lead to a reduction in the likelihood of ‘breakthrough’ inventions. Entry costs, which are incurred when an innovation project is successful, prompt small firms and entrepreneurs to pursue high-risk, high-reward innovations.

Tabellini, 23 November 2017, 288 reads

In the debate on European reforms, a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism for the Eurozone is often proposed. This column argues that such a mechanism is not required. Instead, Eurozone member states should issue GDP-linked bonds, which would enact an implicit seniority structure on their sovereign debt and make the Eurozone more resilient to the next crisis.

Felbermayr, Steininger, Yalcin, 22 November 2017, 2554 reads

The Trump administration intends to restructure US international trade relations with its major trade partners to correct what it perceives to be unfair trade and establish a ‘level playing field’. This column uses a structurally estimated and simulated trade model to analyse three potential protectionist policies that have been discussed by the administration. The results suggest that the promise to create more jobs and investment in the US through such policies is a fallacy.

Saez, Schoefer, Seim, 22 November 2017, 2277 reads

Cuts to the employer portion of payroll taxes are often discussed as a policy lever to reduce labour costs for firms. This column examines the effects of a Swedish experiment which dramatically cut employer payroll taxes for young workers between 2007 and 2015. The tax cut reduced youth unemployment by 2-3 percentage points, without any differential increase in wages of young workers. Firms used the tax windfall to expand employment and business activity, and firms with larger tax windfalls raised wages for workers – both young and old – collectively.

Blejer, Nagy-Mohacsi, 22 November 2017, 2104 reads

Global politics of late has been marked by the rise of anti-elite political movements and anti-establishment leaders. This column analyses the tactics of such populists through the lens of the ‘time inconsistency’ problem – that what is considered a long-term optimal policy today may not be optimal when that future arrives. Populist leaders seek to gain and increase their power by undermining democratic institutions and conventional commitment devices. Several ‘second generation’ institutional commitment devices to counter this are proposed.

Beck, Kotz, 22 November 2017, 1682 reads

The Eurozone crisis has opened fault lines between German economists and policymakers and those in a number of Eurozone (in particular periphery) countries.This column introduces a new eBook explaining the historical development of the ordoliberal school of economics and its influence on German policymaking, and contrasting it critically with what we like to call the Anglo-Saxon-Latin pragmatism of economic policymaking.

Kondo, 21 November 2017, 2774 reads

Economists have studied extensively the direct impacts of natural disasters on local labour markets, but less is known about the knock-on consequences for wider markets. This column argues that although supply chain disruptions caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake increased job separation and geographical shifts, the effects on employment status were weak. The long-run impact of the earthquake on the labour markets outside of the directly affected areas appears to be limited, despite public concerns at the time.

Danthine, 21 November 2017, 3222 reads

There is little doubt that one of the main causes of the Global Crisis was excessive risk-taking by large international financial institutions. This column argues that the combination of very high leverage and limited liability continues to incentivise risky behaviour by bankers. Dealing with this problem requires the alignment of bankers’ incentives with those of society, rather than of shareholders. Deferred compensation in the form of contingent convertibles presents one promising strategy.

Lindert, 20 November 2017, 6556 reads

There has been a blossoming of research into fiscal incidence by income class. This column combines century-long histories for Britain and South American countries with previous research to offer a global history of government income redistribution. Contrary to some allegations, the shift towards progressivity in government budgets over the last 100 years has not been reversed since the 1970s. The rise in inequality since the 1970s therefore appears to owe nothing to a net shift government redistribution toward the rich.

Breinlich, Leromain, Novy, Sampson, 20 November 2017, 4979 reads

On 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. As soon as the result became clear, sterling depreciated sharply and, since the vote, UK inflation has dramatically increased. This column asks how much of the rise in inflation is due to the referendum. It finds that the referendum result pushed up UK inflation by 1.7 percentage points, which amounts to an annual (and potentially permanent) cost of £404 for the average British household.

Baier, Baten, 19 November 2017, 3154 reads

Studies have found that the occurrence of natural resources can increase the risk of civil war and interstate conflict. This column uses data from 50 countries beginning in 1890 to show that silver mining can also have substantial effects on interpersonal violence during peacetime. Across many different countries and periods, an economy's increasing dependence on silver has increased the homicide rate.

Ueda, Kobayashi, 18 November 2017, 2725 reads

Strategic shareholding – companies holding minority shares in other companies for the sake of business relations – can be used for anticompetition purposes or to reduce pressure from shareholders. This column explores strategic shareholding in Japan. Roughly one third of shareholders are found to be strategic, with three quarters of these being business corporations. However, in Japanese corporate culture it is not uncommon for such shareholding to occur as part of technical or business partnerships without affecting managerial independence.

Heldring, Robinson, Vollmer, 18 November 2017, 12167 reads

The Industrial Revolution is arguably the most important economic event in world history, and successful industrialisation continues to elude many developing countries today. This column argues that an important driver of industrialisation in England was the development of markets that allowed division of labour, innovation and, ultimately, social change. Institutional change, rather than advantageous geography, is the main driver of successful industrialisation in England.

Angrist, Azoulay, Ellison, Hill, Lu, 17 November 2017, 7283 reads

Economics, and economists, are often accused of insularity and hubris, and of talking primarily to themselves in their research. This column uses a recent analysis of citations to and from other disciplines to show that this is no longer the case. Economics papers increasingly cite non-economic research, and other disciplines cite economists more often too. The data suggest that the rising quantity and quality of empirical research in economics has increased the relevance of the field to non-economists.

Bruszt, Campos, 17 November 2017, 3217 reads

The many benefits and costs of economic integration are notoriously difficult to pinpoint. This column introduces new institutional measures for 17 EU candidate countries since 1997 to explore whether deep integration helps the build-up of state capacity. Estimates highlight the relationship between judiciary capacity and bureaucratic independence as the key engine behind state capacity-building engendered by the prospect of EU membership.

Autor, Palmer, Pathak, 16 November 2017, 5490 reads

Separating cause from effect is notoriously difficult when it comes to gentrification and neighbourhood amenities, including public safety. This column exploits the sudden ending of a rent control regime in Cambridge, MA to examine whether and by how much gentrification affects crime. In the years immediately following the end of rent control, crime fell significantly more in neighbourhoods that had been heavily rent controlled. However, those neighbourhoods also saw the highest turnover in occupants, suggesting that incumbent renters of in these areas were priced out of their properties and thus missed out on the benefits from gentrification.

Koujaku, Miyakawa, 16 November 2017, 3875 reads

Venture capital firms use a variety of accumulated resources to inform their investment activities, but do the rely solely on their own resources or do they employ other firms’ resources to complement their own? This column examines the pattern of co-investments among venture capital firms and discusses the economic implications. Past experience of co-investments increases the likelihood of future co-investments among firms when the returns from these past co-investments were high, and also when the jointly invested venture business companies experienced greater growth after an IPO.

Danielsson, 15 November 2017, 8835 reads

Artificial intelligence is increasingly used to tackle all sorts of problems facing people and societies. This column considers the potential benefits and risks of employing AI in financial markets. While it may well revolutionise risk management and financial supervision, it also threatens to destabilise markets and increase systemic risk.

Altunbaş, Manganelli, Marques-Ibanez, 14 November 2017, 4019 reads

Prudential supervision of banks has increasingly relied on capital requirements. But bank capital played a relatively minor role in predicting bank solvency during the Global Crisis, except for scarcely capitalised banks. This column argues that while capital is a helpful tool to support bank financial stability, it is complex for supervisors to calibrate it precisely. Macroprudential authorities should be able to complement capital-based tools with additional, borrower-based prudential instruments.

Benzarti, Carloni, 13 November 2017, 5820 reads

In the wake of the Global Crisis, some governments sought to stimulate demand through VAT cuts. This column assesses the success of these measures by investigating who benefited from a VAT cut on sit-down restaurant meals in France. The results show that restaurant owners captured the lions’ share of the tax cut, while employees and consumers benefited substantially less. Further, following subsequent tax increases, restaurant owners increased their prices by four to five times more than they had decreased their prices following the original cut.

Beetsma, Romp, van Maurik, 13 November 2017, 4910 reads

Population ageing means that many current pension regimes are unsustainable, but the timing of pension reform measures is a political as well as an economic decision. This column uses new data on OECD pension reforms since 1970 to show that their timing has not been driven by projected demographic developments or political change, but by the state of the economy at the time when reforms were legislated. Pension systems have expanded more frequently during booms, and have contracted during economic downturns.

Hosono, Miyakawa, Takizawa, 12 November 2017, 4873 reads

Several studies have examined the profitability and productivity of foreign subsidiaries, but less is known about the determinants of success. This column looks at the contribution of resources from 3,800 Japanese parent firms to the business activities of their 20,000 overseas subsidiaries. The results suggest a positive contribution of parent firms’ intangibles to subsidiaries’ production, in particular for smaller subsidiaries.

Braunstein, Laboure, 11 November 2017, 14745 reads

Despite specialised press coverage, little is known about the potential wider socioeconomic implications of digital wealth management solutions. This column examines how ‘robo-advisors’ offer an opportunity to democratise finance and decrease wealth inequality. These algorithmic investment advisors stand to disrupt the wealth management sector through their ‘low-cost, accessible to most’ business models. However, the entrance of traditional wealth managers into the robo-advisor market could threaten this disruption.

Grossman, Helpman, Oberfield, Sampson, 11 November 2017, 9380 reads

Many countries have experienced both a slowdown in aggregate productivity growth and a decline in labour’s share of national income in recent years. This column argues that the productivity slowdown may have caused the decline in labour’s income. Calibrating the authors’ model to US data suggests that a one percentage point decline in the productivity growth rate accounts for between half and all of the observed decline in the US labour share.

Rodríguez-Pose, von Berlepsch, 10 November 2017, 11470 reads

Research on the economic impact of migration on hosts and the migrants themselves has tended to focus on the short term. This column traces the economic impact of population diversity in the US resulting from the Age of Mass Migration of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. High levels of population fractionalisation have had a strong, positive influence on economic development, while high levels of polarisation have undermined development. Despite a stronger effect on income levels in the first 30 years following the initial migration shock, the relationships are found to be extremely long-lasting.

Novokmet, Piketty, Zucman, 09 November 2017, 8019 reads

Russia has undergone a dramatic economic and political transformation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990-1991, yet the consequences on the distribution of income and wealth are not very well documented and understood. This column attempts to combine the various available data sources in order to provide consistent series on the accumulation and distribution of income and wealth in Russia from the Soviet period until the present day.

Kilian, Zhou, 09 November 2017, 6257 reads

Global commodity prices surged across the board after 2003, with some observers claiming that this reflected a permanent increase in global real economic activity. This column argues that this was a persistent but transitory phenomena tied to rising commodity demand from Asia. It presents evidence of a global economic slowdown since 2011, with low real commodity prices likely to persist.

Inui, Ito, Miyakawa, 09 November 2017, 4966 reads

Economists have recently tried to identify why some firms survive longer than others in export markets. This column examines the firm-level determinants of the duration of Japanese manufacturing firms’ exporting. It suggests that the degree to which products are differentiated matters for firms’ survivability, and that policies to support R&D activities thus indirectly contribute to increasing firms’ chances of survival in foreign markets.

Buti, Döhring, 09 November 2017, 4368 reads

The Eurozone economy is growing at its fastest rate in a decade, but the recovery remains incomplete. This column presents the European Commission’s autumn forecast, and derives some policy considerations. Accommodative macroeconomic policies are still appropriate for now. The column also highlights the need for structural policies to increase the potential for growth and help to share the benefits more fairly.

Kohler, Müller, 08 November 2017, 8835 reads

The EU’s position in the Brexit negotiations is based on the premise that the four freedoms of the single market – goods, capital, services, and labour – are indivisible. This column argues that this indivisibility claim has no economic foundations, and that negotiating on this premise risks unnecessary harm. Reintroducing trade barriers will inflict damage on both sides of the Channel. The possibility that abandoning indivisibility may cause harm through cherry picking, or through potential further exits, doesn’t justify a hard Brexit scenario.

Haliassos, 08 November 2017, 2472 reads

The 2017 CEPR European Conference on Household Finance, held with the support of the Think Forward Initiative, took place on 6-7 October 2017 in Alghero, Sardinia. This column describes the papers that were presented at the workshop.

Harrison, 07 November 2017, 15727 reads

Russia’s Soviet era was distinguished not by economic growth or human development, but by the use of the economy to build national power. On the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, this column shows that while the education of women and better survival rates of children improved opportunities for many citizens, Soviet Russia was a tough and unequal environment in which to be born, live and grow old. The Soviet economy was designed for the age of mass production and mass armies. That age has gone, but the idea of the Soviet economy lives on, fed by nostalgia and nationalism.

Edmans, Fang, Huang, 07 November 2017, 5880 reads

Worries about the dangers of short-term incentives for CEOs are rarely backed by rigorous evidence. This column uses data over a ten-year period to show that short-term contracts lead CEOs to undertake repurchases and M&A activity that have negative long-term consequences. The results suggest that the horizon of CEO incentives is a more important dimension to reform than the size of pay packets.

Federico, Nuvolari, Vasta, 06 November 2017, 13199 reads

The origins of the Italian north–south economic divide have always been controversial. This column argues that using real wages in the 19th century, rather than output data, sheds new light on this debate. At unification, there was already a significant gap between real wages in the north and continental south, which widened as the north-west industrialised. The main driver of the growth of real wages in this period was human capital formation.

Falck, Hoffmann, Hürtgen, 06 November 2017, 14490 reads

Existing theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that less expansionary monetary policies lead to lower inflation and dampened inflation expectations. This column considers how the dispersion of inflation expectations can affect this relationship. The results show that an increase in the policy rate can give rise to higher inflation in the short run if professional inflation forecasts differ widely. These findings highlight the importance of considering the amount of agreement about inflation expectations in monetary policy decision-making.

Dippel, Trefler, 05 November 2017, 5676 reads

One way employers can compel workers to accept contracts they otherwise would not accept is by limiting the outside options for those workers. This column explores this facet of labour coercion in the context of post-Emancipation Caribbean islands prior to WWI. On islands where freed slaves had options other than plantation work, sugar exports fell dramatically. Where geographic factors limited these outside options, such as Antigua and Barbados, the plantation system continued to prosper.

Hansen, Miller, Weber, 04 November 2017, 4785 reads

Tax revenue has historically been one of the arguments in favour of legalising marijuana. This column uses a change in Washington’s marijuana tax regime to explore how taxation affects industry and consumer behaviour. Gross receipts taxes encourage vertical as a form of tax avoidance and thus reduce expected revenue. The choice of what to tax (revenue versus weight) also has important implications for how the market evolves.

Ahlfeldt, McMillen, 04 November 2017, 8216 reads

Cities around the world are experiencing unprecedented vertical growth, but there has been little study of the economics of tall buildings. This column summarises novel evidence on the determinants of the urban height profile and the cost of building tall, and derives implications for urban theory and policy. In contrast to standard urban economics models, there is a role for the supply side in determining horizontal land use patterns. Vertical expansion is unlikely to resolve affordability problems in growing cities.

Zoega, 03 November 2017, 4933 reads

The vote for Brexit and the election of Trump are just two examples of the recent rise in populism. This column discusses how support for populist parties in Europe is closely correlated with a lack of trust in national parliaments and in the European Parliament. The EU must convince voters that it is acting in their interests and taking their concerns into account. At the same time, a distinction has to be made between decisions that should be taken at the EU level and those that are better left in the hands of the member states.

Cecchetti, Schoenholtz, 03 November 2017, 11527 reads

Black Monday has been referred to as the first contemporary global financial crisis. This column reviews key aspects of the 1987 crash and discusses the subsequent steps taken to improve the resilience of the financial system. It also highlights a key lingering vulnerability – the lack of a mechanism for managing the insolvency of critical payment, clearing, and settlement institutions.

Lach, Neeman, Schankerman, 03 November 2017, 5171 reads

Understanding how the design of policy to support R&D influences its effectiveness, and how loan programmes should be optimally designed to maximise welfare, is critical to formulating effective, cost-efficient policies. This column uses mechanism design to analyse the optimal structure of R&D loan programmes. The results suggest that optimal policies should ‘target the middle’, as low-risk projects will be funded by the market and high-risk projects are not likely to generate sufficient social payoff to justify support. Moreover, the optimal policy is likely to differ across technology areas, and between industrialised and emerging economies.

Kugler, Tinsley, Ukhaneva, 02 November 2017, 9991 reads

Despite various initiatives, a lack of female representation in fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths persists. This column studies how men and women are affected by various factors when switching out of STEM majors, including their own ability in a subject as well as gender representation within their cohort. Women are just as resilient to negative feedback as men when deciding whether to continue in a field of study, but when faced with additional signals such as an association of the field with masculinity, they appear to become more prone to opt out in response to low grades.

Barrera, Guriev, Henry, Zhuravskaya, 02 November 2017, 7406 reads

‘Fake news’ has become a key ingredient of Western political discourse. This column uses an experiment conducted during the 2017 French presidential election campaign to show that ‘alternative facts’ are highly persuasive. Voters exposed to a narrative based on misleading numbers shifted towards the populist’s agenda, and fact checking did nothing to undo these effects. In fact, exposing voters only to official facts on a highly sensitive subject, such as the European refugee crisis, can backfire by increasing support for the extreme right.

Bachmann, Bayer, Merkl, Seth, Stüber, Wellschmied, 01 November 2017, 3473 reads

Many establishments both hire and lay off within a short time window, resulting in ‘churn’. This column uses a newly constructed dataset to show that the rate of churn in Germany is high and can be up to 40% greater in booms compared to recessions. Both establishments that are shrinking and those that are growing hire more and lay off more in booms than in recessions.

De Grauwe, Ji, 01 November 2017, 19704 reads

Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models are still dominant in mainstream macroeconomics, but they are only able to explain business cycle fluctuations as the result of exogenous shocks. This column uses concepts from behavioural economics to develop macroeconomic models with endogenous business cycle fluctuations. Application of the models highlights how the trade-off between output and inflation is moderated by the flexibility of the economy. The models further help to explain the international transmission of business cycle fluctuations.

Reis, Miles, 01 November 2017, 3441 reads

David Miles and Ricardo Reis discuss the 19th Geneva Report on the World Economy, which asks why inflation has remained in such a narrow range over the last decade. 

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