Observed inequality has limitations for normative assessment, which raises the question of whether inequality measurement is redundant and should be replaced by the study of the underlying causes of inequality. This column argues that even in the context of the ‘process versus outcomes’ question, overall indices of inequality still maintain their relevance, but now as statistical tests of fairness.
Ravi Kanbur, Andy Snell, 30 April 2017
Robert Kollmann, Beatrice Pataracchia, Rafal Raciborski, Marco Ratto, Werner Roeger, Lukas Vogel, 27 April 2017
The Global Crisis led to a sharp contraction and long-lasting slump in both Eurozone and US real activity, but the post-crisis adjustment in the Eurozone and the US shows striking differences. This column argues that financial shocks were key determinants of the 2008-09 Great Recession, for both the Eurozone and the US. The post-2009 slump in the Eurozone mainly reflects a combination of adverse aggregate demand and supply shocks, in particular lower productivity growth, and persistent adverse shocks to capital investment linked to the poor health of the Eurozone financial system. Mono-causal explanations of the persistent slump are thus insufficient. Adverse financial shocks were less persistent for the US.
Karen Clay, Jeff Lingwall, Melvin Stephens, 22 April 2017
The exact causes of (and lessons from) the Great Compression – the decline in US income inequality in the mid-20th century – remain unclear. This column uses census data and changes in law to examine the effect of education across the complete distribution of income. Policies that increased attendance for young children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries appear to have had long-term implications for earnings and inequality, with returns to schooling highest among those at the lower end of the income distribution.
Michael Clemens, Ethan Lewis, Hannah Postel, 19 April 2017
Many claim that immigrants negatively affect the labour market prospects of native workers in advanced countries. This column studies a large change in immigration restrictions in the US – the 1965 exclusion of almost half a million Mexican seasonal farm workers (braceros) from the US labour market. The bracero exclusion did not increase the employment or wages of native workers, and technology adoption was one of the adjustment channels.
Lutz Kilian, 02 April 2017
Technological advances caused a boom in the production of ‘tight’ oil in the US, starting in 2008, which has changed how the US is affected by movements in global fuel prices. This column identifies how the US tight oil boom contributed to the decline of global oil prices in 2014-16, and how it has changed the way oil price shocks are transmitted – not just in the US but in the global economy, explaining how European gasoline prices have been less responsive than the US price of gasoline to shocks.
Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman, 29 March 2017
The rise of economic inequality is one of today’s most hotly debated issues. But a disconnect between the different data sets used to measure and understand inequality makes it hard to address important economic and policy questions. In this column, the authors highlight the findings from their attempt to create inequality statistics for the US that overcome the limitations of existing data by creating distributional national accounts.
Benoit Mojon, 04 March 2017
In the last two decades, there has been substantial co-movement of US and Eurozone interest rates. This column shows that the ECB’s unconventional monetary policy has largely succeeded in decoupling nominal interest rates in the Eurozone from those in the US since 2014. This has been especially true for rates of up to five years’ maturity since the rise in US interest rates following the election of Donald Trump.
M. Ayhan Kose, Csilla Lakatos, Franziska Ohnsorge, Marc Stocker, 27 February 2017
A growth surge in the world’s largest economy could provide a significant boost to global activity. In contrast, uncertainty about the direction of US policies could have the opposite effect. This column investigates spillover channels linking the US and the global economy. An acceleration in US growth would have positive effects for the rest of the world if not counterbalanced by increased trade barriers. However, policy uncertainty could hamper global growth, and could have particularly bad effects on investment growth in emerging and developing economies.
Harald Fadinger, Christian Ghiglino, Mariya Teteryatnikova, 24 December 2016
Economists are just starting to understand how observed input-output linkages and productivity differences are connected. This column investigates how differences in the distribution of sectoral input-output multipliers interact with sectoral productivities to determine cross-country differences in aggregate income. It finds that the impact of the linkages on productivity are substantial, which in turn has significant implications for policy.
Sandra Black, Jason Furman, Laura Giuliano, Wilson Powell, 02 December 2016
Over the past three years, 18 states plus the District of Columbia have implemented minimum wage increases, joining ten other states that have raised their minimum wages at least once since the last Federal increase in 2009. This column examines the impact of the more recent state increases on wages, weekly earnings, and employment among workers in the low-wage leisure and hospitality Industry. A comparison with states with no minimum wage increase since 2009 suggests that the recent legislation contributed to substantial wage increases with no discernible impact on employment levels or hours worked.
Philippe Jehiel, Laurent Lamy, 22 November 2016
Bid preferences and set-asides are popular discriminatory practices in US public procurement, but are prohibited in the EU. This column argues that discrimination can be cost-reducing provided it is targeted to favour those firms whose participation is more responsive to the auction procedure. Situations when set-asides may be cost-reducing are also discussed.
Stefan Gerlach, Rebecca Stuart, 17 November 2016
The ‘dot plots’ that the Federal Open Market Committee has been publishing since 2012 have attracted a great deal of attention, but are difficult to interpret because changes in them reflect a combination of new information and changes in the projections horizon. This column addresses how the Committee members’ views of monetary policy have evolved in recent years, and have they have responded to changes in the macroeconomic environment.
Craig McIntosh, Gordon Hanson, 15 November 2016
At first glance, the migration pressures on the EU and US appear similar, but recent history is not a reliable guide to future trends. This column uses demographic trends to predict that the US will experience a gradual decline in its newly arrived immigrant population, while the EU, ringed by nearby high-population-growth states, will see large increases in the stock of first-generation immigrants. As a result, US emphasis on strengthening borders and returning undocumented migrants may be misplaced.
Dale Jorgenson, Mun S. Ho, Jon Samuels, 01 November 2016
There has been speculation that the low employment rates for younger and less-educated workers in the US reflect a ‘new normal’. This column uses detailed new US data to project output, productivity, and employment rates over the next decade. The results indicate that US economic growth will continue to recover from the Great Recession through the resumption of growth in productivity and labour input. The recovery of employment rates for less-educated and younger workers will make an important contribution to future economic growth.
Peter Cziraki, Christian Laux, Gyöngyi Lóránth, 26 October 2016
Banks' payout decisions at the beginning of the financial crisis of 2007-2009 were particularly controversial as the crisis eroded the capital of many banks. Concerns were raised that banks may have engaged in wealth transfer to shareholders, or that they may have been reluctant to reduce dividends to avoid negative signalling. This column examines these arguments using a large dataset on US bank holding companies. Cross-sectional tests do not provide clear-cut evidence of active wealth transfer. Similarly, the evidence on signalling is mixed.
Peter Bofinger, Philipp Scheuermeyer, 20 October 2016
The effect of income distribution on aggregate saving has important implications for aggregate demand and global current account imbalances. Drawing on evidence from a panel of high-income OECD countries, this column documents a hump-shaped relationship between inequality and aggregate saving rates. It also shows that the relationship between inequality and saving depends on financial market conditions.
Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, Adriana Kugler, 17 October 2016
Upward social mobility is widely sought but often elusive in highly mobile societies like the US. While previous work has focused on intergenerational transmission of income levels and social prosperity among natives and immigrants, this column studies the intergenerational transmission of health. There is substantial persistence in health status for both natives and immigrants. However, as immigrant families remain in the US for more generations, their children’s health tends to resemble more the health of native children and less the health of their mothers.
Larry Levin, Matthew S. Lewis, Frank Wolak, 13 October 2016
A consensus that the demand for gasoline is price inelastic means that policymakers have opted to disregard price instruments when addressing gasoline consumption and climate change. This column analyses daily citywide data on gasoline prices and consumption to show that demand for gasoline is in fact substantially more elastic than previously thought. This is a major argument in favour of the effectiveness of price-based mechanisms in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Martín Gonzalez-Eiras, Dirk Niepelt, 11 October 2016
The US fiscal system underwent a radical transformation in the 1930s. This column proposes a micro-founded general equilibrium model that blends politics and macroeconomics to explain the transformation. It rationalises tax centralisation and intergovernmental grants as the equilibrium response to the Sixteenth Amendment, which introduced federal taxation. The theory can also be used to forecast federal and regional taxes and government spending.
Gianni La Cava, 08 October 2016
The rising share of income accruing to housing is a key feature of the changing US income distribution. This column examines the determinants of this phenomenon. The rise occurred due to an increasing share of income accruing to owner-occupiers through imputed rent, it is concentrated in states that are constrained in terms of new housing supply, and it is closely associated with the long-run decline in real interest rates and inflation.