Since time immemorial, parents have struggled with the question of how best to raise their children. This column argues that the choice of parenting style is driven by incentives. Parents weigh the expected costs and benefits of implementing a certain parenting style. The popularity of the authoritarian style is declining because the economic returns to the independence of children have risen. The rising inequality implies higher returns to education. This calls for pushier parenting styles, such as the authoritative one. A decline in inequality is likely to prompt a more relaxed parenting.
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This column by the 2014 Nobelist Jean Tirole was originally posted on 16 July 2007. It gives his views on reforms that are as necessary today as they were in 2007. Meeting the expectations of its citizens will require the French state to become more effective. A four-pronged approach is required: restructuring, competition, evaluation and accountability.
The world has not yet begun to deleverage its crisis-linked borrowing. Global debt-to-GDP is breaking new highs in ways that hinder recovery in mature economies and threaten new crisis in emerging nations – especially China. This column introduces the latest Geneva Report on the World Economy. It argues that the policy path to less volatile debt dynamics is a narrow one, and it is already clear that developed economies must expect prolonged low growth or another crisis along the way.
Before the 2008 crisis, the mainstream worldview among US macroeconomists was that economic fluctuations were regular and essentially self-correcting. In this column, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard explains how this benign view of fluctuations took hold in the profession, and what lessons have been learned since the crisis. He argues that macroeconomic policy should aim to keep the economy away from ‘dark corners’, where it can malfunction badly.
Governments are now measuring happiness, or subjective wellbeing, and some have begun trying to maximise it. This column discusses recent research showing that happiness is not the same thing as utility. The choices people make suggest that they have desires and objectives other than happiness. It is therefore possible to make people worse off while increasing their reported subjective wellbeing.
The Global Crisis prompted Lord Adair Turner to ask if the growth of the financial sector has been socially useful, catalysing an ongoing debate. This column turns to economic history to investigate whether the financial sector is too big. New long-run, disaggregated data on banks’ balance sheets show that mortgage lending by banks has been the driving force behind the financialisation of advanced economies. Real estate lending booms are chiefly responsible for financial crises and weak recoveries.
American employees put in longer workweeks than Europeans. They are also more likely to work at undesirable times, such as nights and weekends. This column argues that the phenomena of long hours and strange hours are related. One possibility for this is cultural – Americans simply enjoy working at strange times. Another, more probable explanation, is the greater inequality of earnings of low-skilled workers in the US, compared to Europeans.
As routine tasks are increasingly automated, middle-wage jobs are becoming rarer. This column documents the changes in labour-market dynamics behind this polarisation, and investigates which workers are affected by it. Flows into middle-wage routine jobs are declining (rather than flows out increasing). Interestingly, routine cognitive workers – who tend to be educated women – are benefiting from this hollowing-out by moving up the occupational ladder.
Many unconventional policies adopted by central banks in response to the Crisis failed to boost the economy. This column discusses the effects of a temporary money-financed fiscal stimulus. When a more realistic model is allowed, such a stimulus can have a strong effect on output and employment, and a mild effect on inflation.
High debt and deflation have afflicted Japan, the Eurozone, and the US. However, the monetary and fiscal policies implemented so far have been disappointing. This column discusses the importance of helicopter money in the form of overt monetary financing in addressing these problems. Overt money financing is the policy with the highest impact in raising demand and output without increasing public debt and interest rates.
Manufacturing in the US has rebounded after the Great Recession, but employment levels have not recovered from their steep decline in the decade before the recession. This column examines to what extent the sector’s fall is a result of the rise of China. The authors estimate direct effects of import competition from China, as well as labour market and buyer-seller indirect effects that operate at the local level. China’s impact has been strong, and employment in US manufacturing is unlikely to recover.
Yale University has generated annual returns of 13.9% over the last 20 years on its endowment – well in excess of the 9.2% average return on US university endowments. Keynes’ writings were a considerable influence on the investment philosophy of David Swensen, Yale’s CIO. This column traces how Keynes’ experiences managing his Cambridge college endowment influenced his ideas, and sheds light on how some of the lessons he learnt are still relevant to endowments and foundations today.
Income inequality is high in the US, but the support of social welfare programmes is low. In Europe, income inequality is low and the welfare states are generous. This column argues that this paradox is largely due to perceived inequality. Many Europeans believe that there is high inequality in their countries, justifying the need for redistributive policies. Americans, however, are less concerned with income differences and with respective redistributive state intervention.
Real wages continue to fall in the UK and elsewhere, yet despite this striking feature of the labour market, some commentators anticipate resurgent pay growth in the near future. This column argues that the absence of any improvement in the UK’s productivity performance – together with evidence that nominal wage growth is flatlining and real wage growth is falling – make it highly unlikely that wage growth is about to explode upwards.
How do macroeconomic changes affect people’s wellbeing? This column presents evidence that the life satisfaction of individuals is between two and eight times more sensitive to negative economic growth than it is to positive economic growth. Engineering economic ‘booms’ that risk even short ‘busts’ is unlikely to improve social wellbeing in the long run.
In a recent column, the authors suggested coordinating monetary and fiscal expansions in the Eurozone through a money-financed temporary tax cut. The effectiveness of their proposal, however, has been questioned. In this column, the authors address some of the criticisms. They argue that the counter-cyclical fiscal policies adopted by the US and the UK, together with monetary easing, had a stabilising effect on output. Moral hazard due to the more lax monetary and fiscal policies is avoidable, increasing the credibility of the future spending cuts.
Negative real interest rates imply redistribution from savers to debtors. This column, by the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, argues that such redistribution would benefit the whole economy. It would strengthen aggregate demand – including investment demand – at a time when such a boost is clearly needed.
Researchers have devoted little attention to the effects of emigration from OECD countries, and the absence of detailed emigration data is the main culprit. Using a new and improved migration database, this column analyses the effect of migration on the wages of less educated native workers. The results suggest that, as far as labour market outcomes of less educated workers are concerned, governments should worry less about new arrivals and more about the potential consequences of their high emigration rates.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is the largest in the world. As such, it has prompted discussions about its design. This column argues that one flaw in the fund is that it doesn’t consider oil reserves beneath the ground. Changing the equity/bond mix and the spending rule could lead to significant welfare improvements.
Minimum wage laws are often shown to have little impact on employment as the labour price rise can be offset by lower turnover, lower markups, and heightened efficiency, or ‘cleansing’ effects. This column shows that in a fast-growing economy like China, there is a ‘cleansing’ effect of labour market standards. Minimum wage growth allows more productive firms to replace the least productive ones and forces incumbent firms to become more competitive. Both mechanisms boost the aggregate efficiency of the economy.
An individual’s level of patience is an important determinant in the trade-off between current and future consumption. This column explores the relationship between individuals’ patience for monetary payoffs and their health behaviours, energy use, and financial outcomes. The authors decompose patience into short-run impulsiveness versus long-run impatience, and also explore the role of alternative measures of patience, such as self-reported willpower.
Sustained rapid growth in many African economies has generated a debate on the sources and likely persistence of a so-called 'African growth miracle'. This column looks at the factors underlying growth in an especially vibrant part of the continent – the East African Community. It suggests that rapid growth has been for real and reasonably well diversified.
Recent calls for closing fiscal deficits have been combined with proposals to shift the tax burden and increase marginal tax rates on higher earners. This column argues that revenue-maximising tax rates for high earners in the US would be substantially higher than current rates. However, increasing tax rates for high earners would not raise much additional revenue.
Advanced nations are shedding manufacturing jobs and gaining service jobs – a trend that has been in place for decades. Some of the shift, however, is a reclassification effect. Corporate outsourcing of tasks like marketing means workers doing the same task as before now show up as working for a firm in the service sector. Using US data from the past 60 years, this column shows that the evolution of the input-output structure – which is mostly due to professional and business services outsourcing – accounts for 36% of the increase in services and 25% of the fall in manufacturing.
Investment in high-speed rail accounts for billions in investment worldwide, but little research has been done on its effect on firm performance. This column introduces a model of firm supply networks, and presents evidence from the opening of an extension to the Shinkansen railway in Japan. The authors show that input-intensive industries benefit relatively more. In addition, their model provides a microfoundation for differential productivity across regions.
To work towards resolving Europe’s ongoing debt crisis this column looks to the past. From the recent emerging market debt crisis (1980s-2000s) and the interwar episode of the 1920s-1930s we learn that debt write-downs and defaults are able to be postponed but not prevented. Punishment for default is temporary, sometimes followed by a renewed surge in borrowing that leads to another crisis.
Following the financial crisis, European banks have taken steps to revise unsustainable business models by deleveraging. By this metric they have made substantial progress – but this column argues that improper management of the deleveraging process may threaten the recovery. The authors find that equity increases played a much larger role than asset decreases, and recommend increasing the disposal of bad assets.
World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.
Having completed the regulatory framework for systemically important banks, the Financial Stability Board is turning to insurance companies. The emerging framework for insurers closely resembles that for banks, culminating in the design and calibration of capital surcharges. This column argues that the contrasting business models and balance sheet structures of insurers and banks – and the different roles of capital, leverage, and risk absorption in the two sectors – mean that the banking model of capital cannot be applied to insurance. Tools other than capital surcharges may be more appropriate to address possible concerns of systemic risk.
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.
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.
Regret can shape preferences and thus is an important part of the decision-making process. This column presents new findings on the theoretical and behavioural implications of regret. Anticipated regret can act like a surrogate for risk aversion and could deter investment. However, once people have invested, they become attached to their investment. This commitment is higher with better past performance.
After the Crisis, unconventional monetary policy measures were adopted. A major question is whether they have succeeded in boosting aggregate demand. This column exploits adjustable rate mortgages that originated before the Crisis and featured an automatic reset of the interest rate. Low interest rates have stimulated consumption of durable goods, but the expansionary effect is partially dampened by households’ desire to deleverage voluntarily.
Offshoring of production can have a deep impact on the wages and welfare of workers with different abilities through its effect on technological progress. This column argues that, when labour is sufficiently cheap abroad, firms have incentives to offshore low-skill tasks and invest in skill-biased technologies at home. Over time, however, offshoring raises foreign wages. This increases demand for all firms and makes innovations complementing low-skill workers more profitable. As a result, offshoring can eventually lead to higher wages for everybody and less inequality.
The substitution from child quantity to quality has been credited for mankind’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the advent of sustained economic growth. This column argues that biocultural preferences for quality faced positive selection pressure in the pre-growth era, presenting evidence from the founding population of Quebec. Individuals with moderate levels of fecundity had fewer children than those with high fecundity, but produced more descendants in the long run because their children enjoyed higher reproductive success.
Recent research highlights that important factors for firm size are costs, quality, markups, and product scope. This column explores the sources that make these factors differ across firms. Quality, including in the form of variation in product scope, is the chief determinant of firm sales. Marginal cost variations do not matter much for firm size.
There is a perception amongst pharmaceutical experts that some Indian manufacturers and/or their distributors segment the global medicine market into portions that are served by different quality medicines. This column finds that drug quality is poorer among Indian-labelled drugs purchased inside African countries than among those purchased inside India or middle-income countries. Substandard drugs – non-registered in Africa and containing insufficient amounts of the active ingredient – are the biggest driver of this quality difference.
The IMF went to extraordinary lengths to come to the assistance of Ukraine, financing above-quota limits and breaking its rule to withhold lending during acute conflict. The fighting continues and the government has yet to make concrete its commitments to the programme. Now that the 2014 economic projections are coming to resemble the ‘adverse scenario’, the IMF faces the task not only of remedying the situation in Ukraine, but of salvaging its own credibility.
There is an urgent need to understand why many households in the US do not hold a bank account. This column argues that supply-side factors – standard bank practices that ration certain households – play a role in this. The evidence comes from the staggered interstate branching deregulation after 1994 that provides an exogenous shock on bank competition. Further findings suggest that access to bank accounts improves access to credit without translating into higher ratios of debt to income.
Have Western economies entered a period of secular stagnation? Among respondents to the latest monthly survey of the Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM), reported in this column, three out of four think not – though, on balance, they feel that policy ought to be more expansionary anyway. Several panel members question whether secular stagnation is a useful and well-defined concept, yet despite this ambivalence, the number of CFM experts who think that policies should be more concerned about low real interest rates is substantially higher than the number that do not.
The assumption of sticky prices is central in understanding the effect of monetary policies on the economy. Yet, how best to model price stickiness is an unresolved issue. This column assesses a selection of models that are able to reproduce cross-sectional heterogeneity in the setting of prices. The authors derive a formula which gives a useful approximation of the effect of a small monetary shock on total output. The formula demonstrates the importance of the Kurtosis of the distribution of price changes. It can be applied to a large class of models, including such with different timing of price adjustment.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is the most successful regional grouping in the developing would. Its latest project is to establish an ASEAN Economic Community by 31 December 2015, consisting of economic, political-security, and social cultural components. This column argues that giving commitments more teeth is the key challenge to be overcome in realising the ASEAN Economic Community if it is to be more than a political exercise in solidarity.
Given a large body of evidence that television influences cultural attitudes, the fear that foreign content erodes local culture may be justified. Such reasoning is often cited in support of the cultural exception that the audiovisual industry routinely receives. This column introduces an economic model of cultural transmission and viewer choice to argue that a competitive TV industry is the best way to ensure cultural survival.
Regulation of the global insurance industry, an emerging challenge in international finance, has two central objectives: strengthening the oversight of insurance companies designated ‘systemically important’; and designing a global capital standard for internationally active insurers. This column argues that it is a Herculean task because the business model of insurance is less globalised than other areas in finance; because global regulators have less experience of insurance than banking where global standards have been pursued for a quarter of a century; and because, as yet, there is limited research-based understanding of the insurance business and its interactions with the financial system and the real economy. But in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the AIG disaster, regulators are under strong pressure to make progress.
Governments benefit from inflation since the real value of public debt falls but inflation is a tax on money holders. Bond holders are aware of this fact and act accordingly. This column explores empirically the role of bond markets in keeping inflation low. The existence of long, nominal, local-currency bonds lowers inflation by three to four percentage points. The results hold for inflation-targeting countries, and other monetary regimes do not have the same effects.
Recent findings suggest that a small proportion of EU firms accounts for a disproportionate share of aggregate exports. This column argues, however, that a large number of EU exporting firms are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and they have a non-negligible part in EU exports. Identifying the trade barriers SMEs face should, therefore, be among the EU trade priorities.
Starting one’s working life in an irregular job can lead to a fruitful career or to long-term stagnation. While studies of European labour markets support the stepping-stone hypothesis, this column presents evidence that irregular jobs lead to negative midlife outcomes in Japan. Future jobs are less stable, pay less, and psychological distress is higher. Such problems suggest a role for policy to reduce economic and social disadvantages of non-regular workers.
The role of credit-fuelled property booms in the Global Crisis has received much high-profile attention in recent years. Using data on Irish small and medium enterprises, this column highlights an additional channel through which such booms can impact post-crisis growth. Firms having difficulty repaying their property-related debts divert resources away from hiring and investment. Property booms thereby induce misallocation of resources in both the boom and the bust.
The Boston mechanism for school assignment is well studied and widely used. This column shows two crucial failings of the variation that gives priority based on neighbourhood, using an exogenous policy change in Barcelona. Since assignment to any school not picked first is unlikely, most parents make the ‘safe’ pick and rank the local school first. Moreover, the ability to deviate from the ‘safe’ ranking is greater for richer families, for whom private education is a viable outside option.
The evolution of the world trading system no longer supports the delivery of opportunities that follow from innovations in international business. This column is a statement by participants at a roundtable held in the EU Centre for Global Affairs, University of Adelaide, on 22 August 2014, which offers suggestions to improve global trade governance. Given that Australia is hosting the G20 Summit in November, the roundtable focused on actions that the G20 should consider to help attain its objective of boosting global growth performance.