Economic history

Philipp Ager, Leonardo Bursztyn, Joachim Voth, 14 January 2017

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.

Thomas Piketty, 07 January 2017

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. 

Matthieu Chavaz, Marc Flandreau, 01 December 2016

Between 1870 and 1914, 68 countries – both sovereign and British colonies – used the London Stock Exchange to issue bonds. This column argues that bond prices and spreads in this period show that the colonies’ semi-sovereignty lowered credit risk at the price of higher illiquidity risk, and further worsened liquidity by attracting investors that rarely traded. Parallels between Eurozone and colonial bonds suggest that the pricing of liquidity and credit in government bond markets is an institutional phenomenon.

Michael Bordo, Arunima Sinha, 20 November 2016

In the wake of the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve took unprecedented measures to stem economic decline. This column uses the Fed’s open-market operations in 1932, another period of short-term rates near the zero lower bound, as a comparison for the QE1 operation of 2008-09. Although the 1932 policy boosted output and inflation, if the Fed had announced the operation in advance and carried it out for a full year, the Great Depression could have been attenuated considerably earlier.

Konrad Burchardi, Thomas Chaney, Tarek Hassan, 12 November 2016

The economic effects of the unprecedented levels of international migrations over the past few years are at the centre of political debates about immigration policy. This column evaluates the causal effect of migration on foreign direct investment using immigration patterns to the US going back to the 19th century. Foreign direct investment is found to follow the paths of historical migrants as much as it follows differences in productivity, tax rates, and education. The results suggest a mechanism of information flow facilitation, and that the effect of ancestry on foreign direct investment is very long-lasting.

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