The failure of the New Keynesian dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models to capture interactions of finance and the real economy has been widely recognised since the Global Crisis. This column argues that the flaws in these models stem from unrealistic micro-foundations for household behaviour and from wrongly assuming that aggregate behaviour mimics a fully informed ‘representative agent’. Rather than ‘one-size-fits-all’ monetary and macroprudential policy, institutional differences between countries imply major differences for monetary policy transmission and policy.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Exact predictions of policy outcomes and estimates of the state of the economy are routine; expressions of uncertainty are rare. This column argues that with the US approaching the beginning of an administration, the incredible certitude of past governmental policy analysis will soon seem a minor concern relative to what lies ahead. Whereas analysis with incredible certitude makes predictions and estimates that are possibly true, analysis in a post-truth world makes predictions and estimates that are clearly false.
Team Vox wishes to thanks all its readers and contributors for making 2016 a great year for the site. Vox will post no new columns between 25 December 2016 and 2 January 2017. There is, however, plenty to catch up on. This column presents a list of topical columns written by leading economists in 2016.
It is generally assumed that central bankers often argue over the appropriate conduct of monetary policy. Focusing on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, this column argues that based on what policymakers vote for, there is no evidence that they disagree with one another in any meaningful sense. Either policymakers essentially agree all the time, or they do not vote their view.
Policy advice for countries managing oil and gas windfalls is typically to smooth consumption boosts by borrowing on international capital markets pre-windfall, repaying the debt and accumulating assets in a sovereign wealth fund during the windfall, and withdrawing from that fund when the windfall ends. This column outlines various reasons why this approach can be disastrous for developing countries, and also considers the best response to a commodity price crash.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Economists are just starting to understand how observed input-output linkages and productivity differences are connected. This column investigates how differences in the distribution of sectoral input-output multipliers interact with sectoral productivities to determine cross-country differences in aggregate income. It finds that the impact of the linkages on productivity are substantial, which in turn has significant implications for policy.
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.
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.
A new set of historical national accounts for Spain constructs estimates of output and expenditure from 1850 onwards, which means we can estimate the evolution of GDP per capita and labour productivity during this period. This column argues that the data demonstrates that GDP per capita captures long-run trends in welfare in Spain, but not short and medium run trends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Emerging economies are substantially reliant on foreign corporate debt issuance, which has major macroeconomic implications. This column quantifies the extent to which debt issuance matters for macroeconomic performance in emerging economies, and how much macro vulnerability it has entailed. It finds evidence that a large increase in debt reliance has had a considerable effect on macroeconomic performance, but suggests that potential negative impacts on overall health of economies can be reduced in the future if policymakers have access to more and better information.
Innovation is often associated with a few visionaries working in new and dynamic industries. In practice, however, critical innovation occurs daily at many points throughout a supply chain. This column uses recent survey data to examine innovation in the US automotive supply chain. Process innovations can have major downstream benefits, and ‘collaborative creativity’ between suppliers and customers is found to be critical in innovation efforts. US automakers should focus on strengthening ties with their suppliers in order to remain competitive.
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.
Globalisation is in retreat, but while the slowdown in trade is widely recognised, what is more striking is the collapse of global trade flows. This column shows how banking deglobalisation is a substantial contributor to the sharp slowdown in global capital flows. It finds that certain types of unconventional monetary policy, and their interactions with regulatory policy, can have important global spillovers. Policies designed to support domestic lending may have had the unintended consequence of amplifying the impact of microprudential capital requirements on external lending.
African countries are scrambling to bring industrial firms into the continent, and workers face a choice between industrial jobs and self-employment. This column reports the results of a randomised controlled trial of 1,000 job applicants in Ethiopia, which suggests that industrial workers earned no more in a year than those given training as entrepreneurs, and had higher disability rates. Two-thirds of industrial workers chose to quit, suggesting that low wages and poor working conditions are a concern for policymakers who promote industrialisation.
Global Value Chains have become the paradigm for the international organisation of production in almost all sectors. Bilateral gross trade flows no longer accurately represent interconnections among countries, so new methods of analysis are needed. Using tools of network analysis, this column assesses the roles of goods and services as both inputs and outputs in GVCs between 1995 and 2011 and examines the profile of Germany, the US, China and Russia as suppliers of value added.
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.
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.
Events of the last year have raised questions about the future growth of international trade. This column examines the role played by ‘global firms’ that both import and export, and are likely to be part of multinationals, in the international economy. In a world of interdependent firm decisions, small reductions in tariffs or trade costs can have magnified effects on trade flows, as they induce firms to serve more markets with more products at greater volumes, and also to source greater volumes of intermediate inputs from more countries. At the same time, policies to restrict imports can end up hurting producers for whom both importing and exporting are a central pillar of their overall business strategy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A recent Vox eBook examined the potential issues facing various EU members when it comes to negotiating with the UK over Brexit. This column, taken from the ebook, argues that Poland should be in favour of a ‘soft’ Brexit, with the UK retaining access to the Single Market and remaining open to exports from EU countries – including Poland – and contributing to the EU budget.
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.
Regulation is a barrier to trade. This column uses French firm-level panel data to assess how technical barriers to trade impact firms’ exports. In the presence of stringent barriers, exporters balance the cost of complying with this regulation against the fixed cost of entering a new market. Barriers reduce the number of exporting firms in each sector-destination, especially in sectors with many multi-destination firms.
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.
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.