Thomas Andersen, Jeanet Bentzen, Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Paul Sharp, 23 October 2017

Examples of the interaction of religious influence and economic performance have occurred throughout history, most notable Weber’s argument of the ‘Protestant ethic’. This column uses an earlier example, of the Cistercian Catholic Order, to show that religious values did influence productivity and economic performance in England and across Europe. The effect of this historic influence has persisted to today.

Michel Serafinelli, 17 October 2017

The productivity benefits of similar firms locating near one another are well accepted, but there is little agreement on how knowledge spillovers have local effects. This column presents evidence from Italy of how firm-to-firm labour mobility enhances the productivity of firms located near other, highly productive firms. The main finding is that the recruitment of workers with experience at good firms significantly increases the productivity of the firms hiring them.

Tom Chang, Tal Gross, Joshua Graff Zivin, Matthew Neidell, 04 October 2017

Klaus Adam, Henning Weber, 26 September 2017

The productivity of many firms evolves over time, which impacts the optimal inflation rate, that is, the rate of price increase with the least distortionary effect on relative goods prices. This column presents estimates for the US that suggest that, due to firm-level productivity changes, the optimal inflation rate has dropped from somewhat over 2% in the mid-1980s to a current level of roughly 1%.

Nicholas Bloom, Chad Jones, John Van Reenen, Michael Webb, 19 September 2017

The rate of productivity growth in advanced economies has been falling. Optimists hope for a fourth industrial revolution, while pessimists lament that most potential productivity growth has already occurred. This column argues that data on the research effort across all industries shows the costs of extracting ideas have increased sharply over time. This suggests that unless research inputs are continuously raised, economic growth will continue to slow in advanced nations.

Peter Robertson, Longfeng Ye, 11 September 2017

The conventional wisdom is that labour reallocation has been a key driver of China’s growth miracle, and slowing migrant labour flows and rapid wage growth have raised concerns over whether this source of growth has run its course. This column argues that the literature on growth and labour reallocation in China has been dominated by a method that, relative to the now standard growth accounting model, substantially overstates the gains. Allowing for this and for human capital differences across sectors, sectoral labour reallocation has not been a key source of productivity growth in China.

Vítor Constâncio, Philipp Hartmann, Peter McAdam, 28 September 2017

The European Central Bank’s 2017 Sintra Forum on Central Banking built a bridge from the currently strengthening recovery in Europe to longer-term growth issues for, and structural change in, advanced economies. In this column the organisers highlight some of the main points from the discussions, including what the sources of weak productivity and investment are and what type of economic polarisation tendencies the new growth model seems to be associated with.

David Byrne, Dan Sichel, 22 August 2017

One explanation given for the apparent recent slowdown in labour productivity growth in advanced economies is poor measurement. This column argues that while the available evidence on mismeasurement does not in fact provide an explanation for the slowdown, innovation is much more rapid than would be inferred from official measures, and on-going gains in the digital economy make the productivity slowdown even more puzzling. At the same time, this continued technical advance could provide the basis for a future pickup in productivity growth.

Roberto Ganau, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 19 August 2017

Whether organised crime undermines productivity has been studied extensively in broad terms, but not at the firm level. This column uses extensive firm-level data from across Italy to suggest that this is firmly the case, both through direct and indirect channels. The results point to a substantial negative direct effect of organised crime on firms' productivity growth. Moreover, any positive impact derived from industrial clustering and agglomeration economies is thoroughly debilitated by a strong presence of organised criminality.

Rikard Eriksson, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 08 August 2017

While job-related mobility is key to knowledge sharing, it may also undermine on-the-job training through labour poaching, and assessing its overall impact on productivity and growth is not straightforward. This column uses data on nearly 2.7 million new hires in Sweden to analyse the impact of labour mobility on plant performance. The greatest positive impact is seen in the country’s three largest cities, while firms in other large urban and university regions emerge as the biggest losers from job mobility.

Keisuke Kondo, 23 July 2017

The large literature on agglomeration economies attests to the higher average productivity of firms in larger cities. However, this literature focuses on positive externalities, and a second potential mechanism – selection against less productive firms – has received little empirical attention. This column explores how these two mechanisms contribute to higher productivity in Japanese cities. Consistent with earlier work considering the case of France, no evidence for a selection effect is found.

Laurent Gobillon, Carine Milcent, 21 July 2017

It is widely believed that the goal of keeping health expenditures under control while increasing the quality of the healthcare system can best be achieved by giving a greater role to market forces. This column evaluates the effect of a pro-competition reform implemented in France over 2004-2008 on hospital quality. It finds that the impact on quality depends on the managerial autonomy of hospitals. And due to the French healthcare market structure, the overall effect of the reform has been limited.

Nicholas Crafts, Terence Mills, 17 July 2017

Estimates of trend total factor productivity growth in the US have been significantly reduced, contributing to fears that the slowdown is permanent. This column provides an historical perspective on the relationship between estimated trends in total factor productivity growth and subsequent outcomes. It argues that In the past, trend growth estimates have not been a good guide for future medium-term outcomes, and ‘techno-optimists’ should not be put off by time-series econometrics.

Masayuki Morikawa, 06 July 2017

Given the early stages of diffusion of many AI and robotic technologies, it is too early to measure the impact of these innovations on jobs. This column uses comprehensive survey data from Japan to measure the extent to which workers across different industries, levels of education, and occupations perceive their jobs to be at risk. Workers with adaptable skills acquired through higher education (particularly in science and engineering) or occupation-specific skills (particularly those in human-intensive personal services) are less worried about their jobs being replaced by AI and robotics.

Ejaz Ghani, Stephen O'Connell, 15 June 2017

There are concerns that the premature deindustrialisation experienced by low-income countries in Africa and South Asia will negatively affect their growth. This column argues that this is not the case, since services, rather than manufacturing, are driving growth in the developing world. While demographics and urbanisation can help growth in low-income countries, the low quality of physical infrastructure is a major challenge.

Alexander Bick, Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, David Lagakos, 04 June 2016

Gilles Duranton, Ejaz Ghani, Arti Grover Goswami, William Kerr, 27 May 2016

Nicholas Bloom, Erik Brynjolfsson, Lucia Foster, Ron Jarmin, Megha Patnaik, Itay Saporta Eksten, John Van Reenen, 17 May 2017

Disentangling the relationship between management practices and productivity has been hampered by the absence of large sample data across plants and firms. This column exploits a new survey covering US manufacturing to show that management practices vary both among and within companies. Furthermore, management practices are just as important for productivity as a number of other factors associated with successful businesses, such as technology adoption. 

Giuseppe Berlingieri, Patrick Blanchenay, Chiara Criscuolo, 15 May 2017

Some firms pay well while others don’t; and some are highly productive while many aren’t. This column presents new firm-level data on the increasing dispersion of wages and productivity in both the manufacturing and services sectors in 16 OECD countries. Wage inequalities are growing between firms, even those operating in the same sector – and they are linked to growing differences between high and low productivity firms. Both globalisation and technological progress (notably information and communications technologies) influence these outcomes – as do policies and institutions such as minimum wages, employment protection legislation, unions, and processes of wage-setting.