Giovanni Federico, Alessandro Nuvolari, Michelangelo Vasta, 06 November 2017

The origins of the Italian north–south economic divide have always been controversial. This column argues that using real wages in the 19th century, rather than output data, sheds new light on this debate. At unification, there was already a significant gap between real wages in the north and continental south, which widened as the north-west industrialised. The main driver of the growth of real wages in this period was human capital formation.

Pietro A. Bianchi, Antonio Marra, Donato Masciandaro, Nicola Pecchiari, 13 September 2017

Economic theory doesn’t provide a clear prediction on how a firm’s performance will be affected if some of its board members have ties to organised crime. This column explores this issue using a unique Italian dataset that includes confidential information about ongoing investigations. Seven percent of firms are found to have at least one director under investigation, and these firms demonstrate, on average, lower levels of cash holdings and worse profitability compared with ‘untainted’ firms.

Marta Auricchio, Emanuele Ciani, Alberto Dalmazzo, Guido de Blasio, 01 September 2017

The nature of the relationship between public and private employment is ambiguous, with studies showing that increased public employment can have both crowding-in and crowding-out effects on private employment. This column explores this relationship across Italian municipalities. It finds evidence of strong crowding-out effects across municipalities, which is partially explained by increased competition in the housing market.

Athanasios Orphanides, 06 June 2017

Results of actions taken by central banks across advanced economies in response to the Global Crisis have been uneven in allaying fears regarding debt sustainability. This column compares the cases of Italy and Japan to that of Germany to examine whether monetary policy actions since the crisis have become a more important driver of debt dynamics than fiscal policy actions. In contrast to Japan, where in the past few years decisive monetary policy actions have allayed fiscal concerns, in Italy monetary policy decisions appear to have contributed to debt sustainability concerns.  

Laura Bottazzi, Sarah Grace See, Paolo Manasse, 18 April 2017

Modern Italy has more inter-ethnic marriages – a consequence of recent immigration. This column uses recent census data to show that  inter-ethnic marriages in Italy have a significantly higher risk of separation, which persists even when accounting for spousal traits and self-selection. The difference is smaller for recent marriages, reflecting a more secular society.

Roberto De Santis, 16 March 2017

French sovereign spreads have risen in recent months, coinciding with debate over the euro ahead of the country’s presidential elections in May. Italian sovereign spreads have been rising since the beginning of 2016. This column argues that investors are not pricing a break-up of France from the Eurozone. Most likely, they are pricing the possibility that the newly elected French government will not have enough supremacy to undertake important economic reforms. Market perception of redenomination risk in Italy, on the other hand, is rising slowly. 

Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, 08 March 2017

Over the past decades, economists working on growth have ‘rediscovered’ the importance of history, leading to the emergence of a vibrant, far-reaching inter-disciplinary stream of work. This column introduces the third and final eBook in our three-part series which examines key themes in this emergent literature and discusses the impact they have on our understanding of the long-run influence of historical events on current economics. This volume focuses on the Americas and Europe and examines how events from history have helped shape their post-war economic identities.

Marco Onado, 21 February 2017

European banks have not recovered from the Global Crisis, in part due to heavy provisions for non-performing loans. This column argues that a comprehensive approach to the issue in Europe could address market inefficiencies and reduce bad loans to bearable levels. The establishment of a European scheme to securitise non-performing loans should form one of the next steps towards recovery.

Fabio Berton, Sauro Mocetti, Andrea Presbitero, Matteo Richiardi, 09 February 2017

Understanding the real effects of financial shocks is essential for the design of effective growth-restoring policies. This column uses data on job contracts matched with the universe of firms and their banks from a region of Italy to analyse the employment effects of financial shocks. Financially constrained firms – especially the least productive ones – significantly reduced employment, mostly of less-educated and lower-skilled workers with temporary contracts. While these results suggest possible distributional effects across workers, they could also reflect a productivity-enhancing reallocation function of financial shocks.

Pierre Cahuc, Olivier Charlot, Franck Malherbet, Hélène Benghalem, Emeline Limon, 05 January 2017

Temporary job contracts account for a substantial proportion of the workforce in countries such as France and Spain, but they can result in high job turnover and instability. This column assesses the impact of government policies that impose taxes on temporary contracts to induce employers to lengthen job durations. Such policies a negative impact on the labour market, reducing the mean duration of jobs and decreasing job creation. The introduction of open-ended contracts with no termination cost for separations occurring at short tenure may be more effective.

Massimo Morelli, Moritz Osnabrügge, 26 November 2016

Italians will vote next month on constitutional reform that aims to abolish perfect bicameralism. The reform would reduce the size of the Senate, and make the Chamber of Deputies the primary legislative body. This column discusses the effects of perfect bicameralism on legislative efficiency and the relationship between executive and legislative power. The reform would see a reduction in decree laws and legislative decrees, and lead to less frequent use of the confidence question. Additionally, it would see important improvements in bureaucratic efficiency.

Marco Fioramanti, Robert Waldmann, 19 November 2016

The European Commission is currently evaluating compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact across the Eurozone. However, differences in the econometric methods used by member states and by the Commission can lead to estimates that are at odds. This column argues that the Commission’s method of estimating the non-accelerating wage rate of unemployment for Eurozone members, which relies on an accelerationist Phillips curve, is inferior to specifications with a traditional Phillips curve. The findings highlight how technical aspects of an estimation procedure can have serious effects on policy outcomes.

Emmanuele Bobbio, 05 November 2016

Tax evasion imposes substantial costs on economies around the world. Beyond equity concerns, it erodes the tax base, with indirect effects on public investment and service provision. This column uses a model calibrated on the Italian economy to assess the direct and indirect effects of tax evasion on economic growth. Enforcing taxes would force small businesses to innovate, putting pressure on larger businesses and clearing the market of poorly performing small firms. Tackling tax evasion is thus important not only for equity reasons, but also for efficiency.

Sergei Guriev, Biagio Speciale, Michele Tuccio, 13 September 2016

A common explanation for the growth in unemployment in southern Europe after the Great Recession is lack of flexibility in over-regulated labour markets. This column examines wage adjustment in regulated and unregulated labour markets in Italy during the recent crisis. Using data on immigrant workers, it shows that before the crisis wages in the formal and informal sectors moved in parallel. During the crisis, however, formal wages did not adjust downwards, while informal labour wages did. Greater flexibility in wages in the formal market could slow the decline in employment.

Guglielmo Barone, Francesco David, Guido de Blasio, 10 September 2016

EU regional policies aim to lead regions onto a path of self-sustaining growth. Fully successful interventions should imply a higher growth rate, not only during the treatment (when the region benefits from the transfers), but also after the expiry of the programme (when the financing terminates). This column uses evidence from the Abruzzi region in Southern Italy to document that when the party is over and the funding ends, growth may slow down significantly. 

Stefano Micossi, 20 August 2016

Some economists are approaching a consensus that the Eurozone’s financial architecture is now resilient enough to withstand another shock similar to that of 2010-11. This column argues that such a view may be overly optimistic. Economic and financial instability persists in member states and the banking sector, and institutions to tackle a shock remain incomplete. While the Eurozone remains vulnerable to a bad shock, the blanket application of burden sharing without consideration of current economic and financial conditions is unwise.

Fabio Schiantarelli, Massimiliano Stacchini, Philip E. Strahan, 13 August 2016

The recession has left a legacy of non-performing loans on Italian banks’ balance sheets.  Policymakers in Italy understand well the importance of correcting their banks’ problems to foster a healthy economic recovery.  This column argues that reforming the judicial and extra judicial processes for recovering collateral offers the potential of improving banks’ balance sheets and enhancing financial stability, not only by increasing loan collections directly, but also by improving borrowers’ incentive to service their existing debt.

Paolo Mauro, 07 August 2016

Policymakers use a well established traditional accounting method to analyse past paths and predict future paths of debt ratios. But the traditional accounting exercises underemphasise the role of economic growth. This column proposes a simple, extended accounting framework to recognise the importance of growth more fully and explicitly. It quantifies the role of economic growth in debt-to-GDP measurement for Ireland and Italy, who were similarly placed in 2012 but whose paths diverged significantly in subsequent years.

Decio Coviello, Andrea Guglielmo, Giancarlo Spagnolo, 07 August 2016

Open competition is regarded as a crucial ‘preventative tool’ that limits government discretion and abuse of power when awarding procurement contracts. However, various studies have identified numerous drawbacks to using open auctions when contracting is imperfect. This column discusses the effects of increased buyer discretion on public procurement in Italy. Increased discretion raises the number of repeated wins by contractors, suggesting long-term relationships between buyers and sellers. Furthermore, productive buyer-seller relationships appear to outnumber corrupt ones.

Jochen Andritzky, Lars Feld, Christoph Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Volker Wieland, 21 July 2016

To make the no-bailout clause credible and to enhance the effectiveness of crisis assistance, private creditors should contribute to crisis resolution in the Eurozone. This column proposes a mechanism to allow for orderly restructuring of sovereign debt as part of ESM programmes. If debt exceeds certain thresholds, the mechanism triggers an immediate maturity extension. In a second stage, a deeper debt restructuring could follow, depending on the solvency of a country. The mechanism could be easily implemented by amending ESM guidelines. 

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