Institutions and economics

Thomas Eisenbach, David Lucca, Robert Townsend, 17 June 2016

The two main elements of bank industry oversight are regulation and supervision. This column provides a framework for thinking about supervision in relation to regulation. Using US data on supervisory hours spent, it finds evidence of economies of scale for bank size. Additionally, less risky banks receive substantially lower amounts of supervisory hours. The findings highlight that supervisors face resource constraints and trade-offs.

Marcela Eslava, Xavier Freixas, 31 May 2016

Public development banks play a significant role in the allocation of credit to businesses that may be unable to attain credit under normal circumstances, despite generating positive externalities. But there is concern that lending by these institutions may end up being allocated inefficiently. This column considers the costly screening that banks must do to allocate funds. It finds that the inefficient allocation of credit may arise when banks are unable to fully internalise the benefits of possible projects. Direct lending and the implementation of subsidies for intermediated lending are two possible ways to counter expensive screening.

Robert Dixon, Guay Lim, Jan van Ours, 03 May 2016

Okun’s law describes the positive empirical relationship between unemployment and the output gap. This column explores how this relationship differs depending on age and gender, taking into account different labour market institutions. Using data for 20 OECD countries over three decades, the authors find that the effect of Okun’s relationship decreases with age. Labour market institutions have similar effects on the unemployment rates of all groups, though magnitudes vary by age and gender.

Jeremiah Dittmar, Ralf R Meisenzahl, 26 April 2016

Throughout history, most states have functioned as kleptocracies and not as providers of public goods. This column analyses the diffusion of legal institutions that established Europe’s first large-scale experiments in mass public education. These institutions originated in Germany during the Protestant Reformation due to popular political mobilisation, but only in around half of Protestant cities. Cities that formalised these institutions grew faster over the next 200 years, both by attracting and by producing more highly skilled residents.

Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, Randi Hjalmarsson, 19 April 2016

Women remain underrepresented in many aspects of political and civic life. This column explores the empirical significance of representation, exploiting a 1919 law that made women eligible to serve on English juries. Archival court data show that female representation boosted convictions in sex offenses cases. The magnitude of results highlights how dramatically underrepresentation can influence the functioning of civic institutions.

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