Peter Bofinger, Mathias Ries, 29 July 2017

There is a broad consensus that the global decline in real interest rates can be explained with a higher propensity to save, above all due to demographic reasons. This column argues that this view relies on a commodity theory of finance, which is inadequate for analysis of real world phenomena. In a monetary theory of finance, household saving does not release funds for investment, it simply redistributes existing funds. In addition, the column shows that at the global level, the gross household saving rate has declined since the 1980s, as well as net saving rates.

Gianpaolo Parise, Kim Peijnenburg, 03 May 2017

Cognitive skills are often considered the key to financial wellbeing. Less weight is put on noncognitive skills. This column shows how a lack of conscientiousness, stress resistance, non-impulsiveness, or grit can explain economic fragility in households. When members possess these noncognitive skills, the household is more likely to save, less likely to have excessive unsecured debt, and less likely to be in financial distress.

Peter Bofinger, Philipp Scheuermeyer, 20 October 2016

The effect of income distribution on aggregate saving has important implications for aggregate demand and global current account imbalances.  Drawing on evidence from a panel of high-income OECD countries, this column documents a hump-shaped relationship between inequality and aggregate saving rates. It also shows that the relationship between inequality and saving depends on financial market conditions.

Eduardo Cavallo, Tomás Serebrisky, 29 July 2016

The Latin American and Caribbean region is trapped in a vicious cycle of low savings and poor use of these savings. This column describes how this problem is reinforced by the current financial system, and prescribes three remedies to policymakers and households to break the cycle. The government should create a better environment for saving and develop a better financial system, but it should also tackle investment distortions and fix broken pension systems. Meanwhile, a change in saving culture should be encouraged from the ground up, with financial education offered to citizens early on in their lives.

Alan Auerbach, Kevin Hassett, 03 March 2015

Piketty's justification for his proposed wealth tax relies on the notion that the rate of return on capital exceeds economic growth. This column challenges this basis, arguing that it fails to account for risk. The authors also examine the relative merits of a consumption tax, which may be more valid.

Samuel Marden, 28 December 2014

It is often argued that for poor countries, increases in agricultural productivity result in higher non-agricultural output, but the theory is ambiguous and the empirical evidence is limited. This column presents evidence from a natural experiment provided by China’s early 1980s agricultural reforms. Higher agricultural output induced by the reforms led to quantitatively important growth in non-agricultural output. This growth appears to be primarily due to rural savings increasing the supply of capital to the non-agricultural sector.

Enrico Minelli, 19 December 2014

Growth and inequality are back at the centre of the economic debate. This column presents a framework for interpreting Thomas Piketty’s data based on Paul Romer’s model of endogenous growth. Two balanced growth regimes are possible in this framework: one (‘merit’) with a low capital–output ratio, a high interest rate, and high growth; and another (‘rent’) with a higher capital–output ratio, a somewhat lower interest rate, and much lower growth. An increase in the returns to physical capital accumulation compared to innovation could explain a shift from ‘merit’ to ‘rent’.

Philippe Bacchetta, Kenza Benhima, 24 August 2014

Among the various explanations behind global imbalances, the role of corporate saving has received relatively little attention. This column argues that corporate saving is quantitatively relevant, and proposes a theory that is consistent with the stylised facts and useful for understanding the current phase of global rebalancing. The theory implies that, while the economic contraction originating in developed countries has pushed interest rates towards the zero lower bound, the recent growth slowdown in emerging countries could push them out of it.

Per Krusell, Tony Smith, 01 June 2014

Thomas Piketty’s new book has been widely praised for its empirical contribution, but his prediction of rising inequality rests on economic theory. This column argues that Piketty’s pessimistic forecast is based on an extreme – and unrealistic – assumption about households’ saving behaviour. According to standard theory, the wealth–income ratio would increase only modestly as growth falls, so declining growth would not be a powerful force for generating high inequality.

Charles Yuji Horioka, Akiko Terada-Hagiwara, 25 January 2014

Corporate saving has sharply increased over the last two decades, but there has been relatively little research on its determinants. This column presents recent work that estimates Asian firms’ cash flow sensitivity of cash. The impact of cash flow on the increase in firms’ cash holdings is positive and statistically significant, and larger and more highly significant for smaller firms. Since smaller firms are more likely to be financially constrained, these results suggest that Asian firms – especially smaller ones – save more when their cash flow increases in order to finance future investments

James Choi, Emily Haisley, Jennifer Kurkoski, Cade Massey, 28 March 2012

As if today’s problems aren’t enough, in the coming years Europe faces what economists are calling a ‘demographic timebomb’, with ageing populations placing an unsustainable burden on already precarious public finances. In order to encourage more people to save for themselves, this column argues that using a psychological intervention can increase contributions to retirement savings accounts by up to 2.9% of income.

Fritz Foley, 05 August 2008

Crime rises when US welfare recipients run short of cash at the end of the month. This column discusses research that links the timing of financially-motivated crime and the timing of welfare payments. Cities that make monthly welfare payments see a clear monthly crime cycle, whereas cities that spread out the payments do not.