Ancient Athenians drew lots to determine who served in public office, but oligarchs at that time (and ever since) have argued that there is a trade-off between competence and fair representation. This column uses Swedish population data on cognitive and leadership ability to argue that democracy in Sweden has created government by competent people who are representative of all walks of life. Sweden’s inclusive meritocracy suggests that electoral democracy can help us avoid the tension between representation and competence.
Ernesto Dal Bó, Frederico Finan, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson, Johanna Rickne, 26 April 2017
Fredrik Andersson, Lars Jonung, 15 December 2016
A recent Vox eBook examined the potential issues facing various EU members when it comes to negotiating with the UK over Brexit. This column, taken from the ebook, argues that Sweden should work for a happy divorce that lays the foundation for a remarriage, or 'Brentry'. As part of this, the authors advocate a temporary escape clause concerning the free movement of labour, which any member state can invoke when and only when they can prove that EU migration is directly harming a significant part of domestic society.
Matthew Lindquist, Joeri Sol, Mirjam van Praag, Theodor Vladasel, 02 December 2016
Policies aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship are popular around the world, but a recent literature suggests that entrepreneurship might be more predetermined than previously thought. This column uses sibling correlations to tease apart the importance of genes, family background, and neighbourhood effects for later entrepreneurship. Parental entrepreneurship and genes are the two main drivers of sibling similarities in entrepreneurship. However, children do appear to be able to learn about entrepreneurship through their family and community, so it may be possible to teach relevant skills to young people.
Fredrik Andersson, Lars Jonung, 30 May 2016
The volume of credit to Swedish households has grown twice as fast as incomes since the mid-1990s. This has resulted in both rising house prices and rising household debt. This column argues that these trends expose Sweden to important economic vulnerabilities. Curbing these vulnerabilities will require prompt action by the authorities.
Mikael Elinder, Oscar Erixson, Daniel Waldenström, 20 April 2016
The distributional effect of inherited wealth has been a long-standing question in economics. This column presents new evidence on the issue using population-wide register data from Sweden. The findings show that inheritances decrease wealth inequality but increase the absolute dispersion of wealth. The equalising effect of inheritances is diluted, however, by the fact that less wealthy heirs consume most of their inherited wealth, whereas wealthier heirs tend to save theirs.
Joakim Ruist, 28 January 2016
The current inflow of refugees into Europe has left policymakers in disagreement over how to react. A major concern is the perceived financial burden that can result from large intakes. This column discusses the fiscal impact of refugees on the Swedish economy. The current net redistribution from the non-refugee population to refugees (excluding arrivals in 2015) is estimated to be 1.35% of GDP. The economic burden of a generous refugee policy is therefore not particularly heavy, especially if the host country incorporates them as quickly as possible into the labour market.
Daniel Waldenström, 20 December 2015
Recent work on the importance of wealth and capital shows that it has fluctuated grossly over time in Europe. This column examines whether this pattern carries over to smaller, late-industrialising countries by looking at new historical evidence from Sweden. After being low in the pre-industrial era, Swedish wealth levels came into line with the rest of Europe in the 20th century. However, government wealth grew much faster and became more important in Sweden, largely due its public pension system. These findings highlight the role of economic and political institutions in the long-run evolution of national wealth.
Emilie Anér, Anna Graneli, Magnus Lodefalk, 14 October 2015
A large body of research has established a positive link between immigrants and bilateral trade. However, the temporary movement of people across borders has received less attention. This column uses Swedish data to analyse the impact of temporary cross-border movement on trade. Recently arrived migrants are found to reduce the negative impact of distance on foreign trade, by assisting firms to overcome informal and informational barriers to trade with their origin country. Facilitating movement of people across borders can be a highly useful tool for engaging in and benefitting from specialised and internationalised production networks.
Niklas Bengtsson, Per Engström, 28 October 2014
Critics of the ‘audit society’ and the so-called ‘new public management’ doctrines have gained momentum in recent years. At the centre of the critique is the so-called motivation crowding-out hypothesis. This column presents evidence from a field experiment involving Swedish non-profits. Far from crowding out intrinsic motivation, the threat of an audit improved all aspects of efficiency.
Karl Walentin, 11 September 2014
Central banks have resorted to various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the Global Crisis. This column focuses on the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities – in particular, through reducing the ‘mortgage spread’ between interest rates on mortgages and government bonds at a given maturity. Although large-scale asset purchases are found to have substantial macroeconomic effects, they may not necessarily be the best policy tool at the zero lower bound.
Jesper Roine, Henry Ohlsson, Daniel Waldenström, 08 August 2014
The extent to which lifetime incomes are determined by inherited wealth is a politically sensitive issue, but long-run evidence on this question is limited. This column presents evidence on Swedish inheritance flows since the early 19th century. Despite a long history of aristocracy, accumulated capital was small relative to income in pre-industrial Sweden. In more recent times, Sweden stands out as a country where the return of capital has not automatically translated into a return of inherited wealth.
Lars E.O. Svensson, 04 September 2013
The Riksbank maintains high policy rates since it fears that a lower rate would increase the household-debt ratio. This column argues that a higher rate in fact leads to a higher debt ratio, not a lower one. The higher rate reduces nominal housing prices and new mortgages, but since the new mortgages are such a small share of total mortgages, the total nominal debt falls very slowly. Yet nominal GDP falls much faster, so the debt-to-GDP ratio rises.
Dirk Schoenmaker, Arjen Siegmann, 27 February 2013
So far, discussions around Europe’s prospective banking union have focused only on the supervision of banks. This column argues that policymakers must also think about the resolution of banks in distress. While national governments confine themselves to the domestic effects of a banking failure, a European Resolution Authority could incorporate domestic and cross-border effects. A cost-benefit analysis of a hypothetical resolution of the top 25 European banks shows that the UK, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands would be the main winners.
Martin Flodén, 25 September 2012
As is well known among economists, Sweden had its own financial crisis in the early 1990s and their public finances were quickly consolidated. This column asks whether the Swedish policy measures serve as a role model for how to handle the current crisis?
Luc Laeven, Fabian Valencia, 09 July 2012
Do advanced economies have an edge in resolving financial crises? This column shows that the record thus far supports the opposite view, with the average crisis lasting about twice as long as in developing and emerging market economies. It argues that macroeconomic stabilisation policies in advanced countries often delay the necessary financial restructuring.
Lars Calmfors, 12 March 2012
Several Eurozone countries are currently struggling with acute fiscal crises. This column argues that Sweden provides an example that fiscal transparency and a high-quality economic policy debate may be more important for budget discipline than formally binding rules and automatic correction mechanisms as being envisaged in the European fiscal compact.
Randi Hjalmarsson, Helena Holmlund, Matthew Lindquist, 29 November 2011
How should society fight crime? This column argues education policy should be part of the answer. Exploiting a Swedish education reform as a source of exogenous variation in years of education, it suggests that one additional year of schooling decreases the likelihood of conviction by 7.5% for males and by 11% for females.
Henrik Isakson, 25 June 2011
In a world economy dominated by fragmented supply chains and trade in tasks, the direct contribution of exports to any national economy is overstated by gross-value measures. Since most measures do not properly account for imported inputs and severely underestimate the share of services in total exports, our view of world trade is distorted. This column says our trade policies risk being distorted too.
Kari Alho, 05 June 2011
Even in times of crisis, there is room for looking at long-term prospects. This column tries to evaluate the likely effects of Sweden joining the Eurozone.
James Reade, Ulrich Volz, 08 September 2009
The global financial crisis has revived euro deliberations in Sweden. This column argues that Sweden ought to join the eurozone. It says that Swedish monetary independence is an illusion, as Swedish money market rates are driven by the policies of the ECB. Sweden would gain more by taking a seat at the ECB table than remaining a passive bystander.