Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 15 December 2015

Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Muhammad Yasir Khan, Ali Hasanain, 21 August 2016

Government employee absenteeism is often a serious problem in developing countries. One potential reason is government positions being appointed as a kind of patronage to reward political loyalty. This column presents the results of an intervention designed to address government doctor absenteeism in Punjab, Pakistan. The programme provided government inspectors with a smartphone app to streamline information flows, and improved inspection rates. The results support the political patronage hypothesis and provide encouraging support for data-driven policymaking.

Stephen Hansen, Michael McMahon, 03 February 2016

In addition to setting interest rates, central banks also communicate with the public about economic conditions and future actions. While it has been established that communication can drive expectations, less is known about how it does so. This column attempts to shed light on this question. Applying novel measures to the content of Federal Reserve statements, it shows that forward guidance is a more important driver of market variables than disclosure of information about economic conditions.

Alessandro Gavazza, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, 31 January 2016

The internet is lauded for increasing access to information, but it is unclear whether this translates into a better-informed and more engaged voting populace. This column uses UK data to determine how the internet has changed voting patterns and aggregate policy choices. Internet penetration is found to be associated with a decrease in voter turnout, mainly among the lower socioeconomic demographic. Internet diffusion is also found to reduce local government expenditure, in particular on policies targeting less-educated voters. These findings point to a trade-off between the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘political divide’.

M. Ayhan Kose, Franziska Ohnsorge, Lei (Sandy) Ye, 07 January 2016

Emerging markets face their fifth consecutive year of slowing growth. This column examines the nature of the slowdown and appropriate policy responses. Repeated downgrades in long-term growth expectations suggest that the slowdown might not be simply a pause, but the beginning of an era of weak growth for emerging markets. The countries concerned urgently need to put in place policies to address their cyclical and structural challenges and promote growth.

Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 15 December 2015

The recent influx of refugees to Europe has stoked security fears and created anxiety about the social and economic consequences. This column provides new quantitative indicators for the intensity of migration-related fears and policy uncertainty, based on newspaper articles. The indices are presented for the US, UK, France, and Germany, and extend back to 1995. They show that recent levels of concern and uncertainty in European countries about migration are unprecedented. 

Alberto Alesina, Traviss Cassidy, Ugo Troiano, 22 March 2015

Different characteristics of a politician could affect policy. Whereas existing studies analyse gender and education, this column discusses the effect of a politician’s age on governance and re-election. Younger mayors are more likely to strategically increase expenditures and attract more transfers from the higher levels of government right before the election. These fiscal cycles are positively correlated with re-election and, hence, potentially explain why younger mayors are more likely to be re-elected. 

Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom, 07 February 2012

Reading the business press, one gets the impression that the world of policy is in a very uncertain state around the world. This column presents an up-to-date index of policy uncertainty and suggests that the calming of policy uncertainty may have aided recent economic prospects in the US. Unfortunately, policy uncertainty still appears extremely high in Europe with the Eurozone crisis.

Alex Cukierman, 20 November 2009

Ideology, institutions, political, and accepted economic wisdom shape economic policy choices. This column explores how political ideologies and academic conclusions shaped US policymakers’ responses to the global financial crisis. It says that forecasting macroeconomic developments necessarily involves forecasting the role of such beliefs.