Alberto Alesina, Stefanie Stantcheva, Edoardo Teso, 21 June 2017

Americans are generally thought to view the economic system as fair and see wealth as a reward for ability and effort, while Europeans tend to believe that the economic system is unfair, and that wealth is the result of circumstances. This column tests this using new evidence on beliefs about intergenerational mobility in four European countries and the US, and confirms that Europeans do indeed tend to be overly pessimistic about moving up the social ladder compared to reality, while Americans are overly optimistic. These perceptions have important implications for how redistribution and equal opportunity policies will be received.

Stephen Redding, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 27 October 2016

Economic geography has typically focused on stylised settings. This column surveys a recent strand of literature that has developed quantitative models of the spatial distribution of economic activity. This ‘quantitative spatial economics’ literature has produced important methodological and theoretical insights that clarify earlier results in stylised settings. The emerging field stands to contribute substantially to economic and public ‘place-based policies’.

Julio J. Elias, Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis, 15 October 2016

Certain ‘repugnant’ transactions, such as the sale of organs, are prohibited on moral grounds, despite substantial potential efficiency gains. This column uses a survey-based experiment to explore public perceptions of the morality–efficiency trade-off in the context of the US kidney procurement system. Respondents are found to accept higher levels of repugnance for higher levels of efficiency. These results suggest room for efficiency concerns alongside moral and ethical considerations.

Yana Jin, Mu Quan, Chiara Ravetti, Zhang Shiqiu, Timothy Swanson, 02 December 2015

Many cities in China have notoriously high levels of air pollution. Given its tight control over the media, the Chinese government has a high degree of control over public information about air quality. This column explores the government’s incentive to downplay the seriousness of pollution spikes. Households that rely exclusively on public media are found to engage in less self-protective behaviours. This could lead to substantial public health costs in the long run that might otherwise have been avoided.

Shekhar Aiyar, Anna Ilyina, Andreas Jobst, 05 November 2015

European banks are struggling with high levels of non-performing loans. This column explores the channels through which persistently high non-performing loans hold down credit growth and economic activity. A survey of EU authorities and banks reveals that the loans are not written-off for a variety of deep-seated reasons, including legal and tax code issues. An agenda is proposed comprising tightened bank supervision, structural bankruptcy reforms, and the development of markets for distressed assets.

Carin van der Cruijsen, David-Jan Jansen, Jakob de Haan, 23 August 2015

Central banks have typically targeted their communication at financial markets. Increasingly, however, many have started actively communicating with the general public. Using Dutch survey data, this column finds that the public’s knowledge of monetary policy objectives is far from perfect, and varies widely across respondents. Those with a greater understanding of ECB objectives tend to form more realistic inflation expectations. Central banks seeking to target the general public must take account of discrepancies in households’ knowledge of and interest in monetary policy.

Angus Armstrong, Francesco Caselli, Jagjit Chadha, Wouter den Haan, 02 August 2015

Does monetary policy really face a zero lower bound or could policy rates be pushed materially below zero per cent? And would the benefits of reforms to achieve negative policy rates outweigh the costs? This column, which reports the views of the leading UK-based macroeconomists, suggests that there is no strong support for reforming the monetary system to allow policy rates to be set at negative levels.

The Editors, 14 July 2008

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