Economic history

Fernando Alvarez, Hervé Le Bihan, Francesco Lippi, 30 September 2014

The assumption of sticky prices is central in understanding the effect of monetary policies on the economy. Yet, how to best 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.

Daron Acemoglu, Gino Gancia, Fabrizio Zilibotti, 30 September 2014

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.

Luigi Buttiglione, Philip Lane, Lucrezia Reichlin, Vincent Reinhart, 29 September 2014

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. 

Daniel S. Hamermesh, Elena Stancanelli, 29 September 2014

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. 

David Blanchflower, Stephen Machin, 29 September 2014

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.

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