Frontiers of economic research

Christian Dippel, Robert Gold, Stephan Heblich, Rodrigo Pinto, 12 April 2017

Finding exogenous variables to establish control mechanisms is difficult outside of randomised control trials. This column shows that under certain circumstances, it is possible to separate out the causal effect of an unknown variable on the observed and unobserved variables. When applied to trade exposure and voter sentiment for populist parties, the model is largely accurate and gives the surprising finding that 170% of the total effect of trade exposure on populist voting is explained by labour markets, meaning that trade exposure’s other effects on voting – those that do not run through labour markets – are politically moderating.

Sagit Bar-Gill, Neil Gandal, 10 April 2017

Online echo chambers – in which people engage only with others that share, and media that reflect, their opinions and biases – have become an area of concern in the wake of last year’s startling political upsets. This column investigates how users navigate and explore an online content space. Highly social users and younger users are most likely to get caught in echo chambers, while opinion leaders are less likely to get caught. Reducing the visibility of content popularity information, such as ‘like’ and ‘view’ counts, may help mitigate echo chamber effects. 

Steven Durlauf, 08 April 2017

Kenneth Arrow, co-recipient of the 1972 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, passed away in February. This column outlines the ideas of one of the transcendent minds in the history of economics. The author, holder of a chair named in Arrow’s honour, notes that while his contributions were central in creating much of what constitutes modern quantitative social science, he was always profoundly aware of the limitations of the edifice, constantly seeking to challenge and broaden economic theory.

Wouter den Haan, Martin Ellison, Ethan Ilzetzki, Michael McMahon, Ricardo Reis, 30 March 2017

Are quantitative measures of subjective wellbeing reliable enough to provide insights into empirical macroeconomic analysis, and should they influence the objectives of macroeconomic policy? The latest Centre for Macroeconomics and CEPR expert survey finds a reasonable amount of openness to wellbeing measures among European macroeconomists. On balance, though, there remains a strong sense that while these measures merit further research, we are a long way off reaching a point where they are widely accepted and sufficiently reliable for macroeconomic analysis and policymaking.

Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, 08 March 2017

Over the past decades, economists working on growth have ‘rediscovered’ the importance of history, leading to the emergence of a vibrant, far-reaching inter-disciplinary stream of work. This column introduces the third and final eBook in our three-part series which examines key themes in this emergent literature and discusses the impact they have on our understanding of the long-run influence of historical events on current economics. This volume focuses on the Americas and Europe and examines how events from history have helped shape their post-war economic identities.

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