Filipa Sá, 04 January 2017

One of the factors driving house price growth in many countries is foreign investor demand. Using new UK data, this column argues that foreign investment has had a significant positive effect on house price growth in the last 15 years. The effect is not limited to expensive homes but ‘trickles down’ to less expensive properties, and is stronger where housing supply is less elastic. Foreign investment is also found to reduce the rate of home ownership, but there is no evidence of an effect on the housing stock or share of vacant homes.

Antonio Fatás, Lawrence Summers, 12 October 2016

Conventional wisdom on supply and demand suggests that demand shocks are cyclical or transitory, and that only technology shocks are responsible for trend changes. This column argues that cyclical events can have permanent effects on demand, and therefore GDP. It is time for policymakers to start considering the possibility of hysteresis seriously.

Stephen Redding, David Weinstein, 03 October 2016

Big data stands to transform economic measurement in substantial ways. The volume and precision of data available allows economists to revisit the foundational assumptions underpinning common indexes. This column presents a new empirical methodology that leverages big data to translate nominal numbers into real output or welfare. ‘The unified approach’ nests major price indexes and addresses implicit biases in these measures. An examination with barcode data suggests that standard methods of measuring welfare overstate cost of living increases by ignoring new products and demand shifts.

Jason Furman, Jay Shambaugh, 29 April 2016

In terms of GDP and unemployment, the US’s recovery from the crisis was relatively rapid. This was in large part due to forceful fiscal policy conducted by the Obama Administration. This column surveys the lessons for other economies, which have seen less-convincing recoveries. Around the world, increased spending and tax cuts over the last eight years have had positive effects. Continuing recovery will require concerted action in these directions.

Andrew Bernard, Toshihiro Okubo, 23 April 2016

Recent research has found that certain firms increase their innovative activity during periods of falling demand. This column investigates this puzzle by analysing how Japanese firms adjust their product mix over the business cycle. During transitions from recession to expansion, firm-level product churning – that is, simultaneously adding and dropping products – increases by 25%. The findings lend support to the ‘trapped factor’ model, in which negative demand shocks see the redeployment of underemployed resources towards innovation processes.

Roger Backhouse, Mauro Boianovsky, 19 May 2015

The notion of secular stagnation – a state of negligible or zero economic growth – is back in the headlines. Questions naturally arise about its intellectual antecedents. This column discusses how the concept rose and fell with the economic fortunes of advanced industrialised nations. Political trends and trends in economic theory played a part in its trajectory, with the notion closely connected to the idea that the level of government debt should be allowed to rise.

Abigail Adams, 03 February 2015

In setting tax levels, governments around the world must predict how consumers will respond. This is a surprisingly difficult problem to solve – consumer preferences vary significantly across individuals and cannot be directly observed. This column suggests that these challenges for accurate demand prediction are best overcome using nonparametric methods, and outlines a flexible approach for recovering the distribution of consumer preferences that can be used to predict individual demand responses as required for policy analysis.