The US health insurance market is becoming less competitive due to mergers and withdrawal of services from certain states. This column examines how this affects consumers through insurance premiums and hospital reimbursement rates. Using employer-sponsored insurance data from California, it finds that the relationship between insurer competition and health care spending depends on institutional and market structure. If premiums can be constrained through effective regulation or negotiation, then reduced competition might lead to lower costs. Absent such constraints, consumers will likely be harmed.
Kate Ho, Robin Lee, 16 September 2016
Pasquale D'Apice, 13 September 2016
There has been renewed interest in economic analysis of the EU budget following the Global Crisis. This column presents new calculations of cross-border flows operated through the EU budget and compares them with those estimated for the US. For each euro paid by an average net (EU member state) contributor, approximately 75 cents return through the EU budget, and 25 cents cross a border. At the margin, the US federal budget is less redistributive in normal times, with around 90 cents per dollar returning to the contributing state, but net cross-border fiscal flows in the US increased steeply in the wake of the Global Crisis, financed by federal borrowing.
Rasmus Landersø, James Heckman, 12 September 2016
The Scandinavian model of social welfare is often contrasted favourably with the US model in terms of promoting social mobility across generations. This column investigates the accuracy of these claims, focusing on the case of Denmark. Denmark invests heavily in child development, but then undoes the beneficial effects by providing weak labour market incentives for its children to attend school compared to the US. This helps explain why the influence of family background on educational attainment is similar in the two countries.
Douglas Campbell, Lester Lusher, 08 September 2016
Growing inequality has been one of the most pressing political issues since the Great Recession. However, there is a relative lack of consensus on the significant drivers of this trend. This column investigates the contribution of globalisation, via international trade, to US inequality. Although trade is found to have had important effects on certain parts of the US labour market in the early 2000s, the growth in US inequality since 1980 can be traced back to Reagan-era tax cuts.
Philippe Aghion, Ufuk Akcigit, Julia Cagé, William Kerr, 29 August 2016
The relationship between taxation and economic growth is complex, and relies in large part on the efficiency with which taxes are used. This column examines the impact of corruption on this relationship. The boost to welfare from reducing corruption is substantially larger than the marginal gains from optimising the tax rate for an existing level of government efficiency.
Brian Nolan, Max Roser, Stefan Thewissen, 27 August 2016
With inequality rising and household incomes across developed countries stagnating, accurate monitoring of living standards cannot be achieved by relying on GDP per capita alone. This column analyses the path of divergence between household income and GDP per capita for 27 OECD countries. It finds several reasons why GDP per capita has outpaced median incomes, and recommends assigning median income a central place in official monitoring and assessment of living standards over time.
Marco Buti, José Leandro, Plamen Nikolov, 25 August 2016
The fragmentation of financial systems along national borders was one of the main handicaps of the Eurozone both prior to and in the initial phase of the crisis, hindering the shock absorption capacity of individual member states. The EU has taken important steps towards the deeper integration of Eurozone financial markets, but this remains incomplete. This column argues that a fully-fledged financial union can be an efficient economic shock absorber. Compared to the US, there is significant potential in terms of private cross-border risk sharing through the financial channel, more so than through fiscal (i.e. public) means.
Laurence Ball, 24 August 2016
Much of the damage from the Great Recession is attributed to the Federal Reserve’s failure to rescue Lehman Brothers when it hit troubled waters in September 2008. It has been argued that the Fed’s decision was based on legal constraints. This column questions that view, arguing that the Fed did have the legal authority to save Lehman, but it did not do so due to political considerations.
Suresh Naidu, Noam Yuchtman, 23 August 2016
Today’s labour market in the US has much in common with that of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then, as now, there were few government protections for workers, fears over cheap immigrant labour, rapid technological change, and increasing market concentration. This column explores the lessons that can be drawn from the earlier ‘Gilded Age’. The findings suggests that even as markets play a greater role in allocating labour, legal and political institutions will continue to shape bargaining power between firms and workers.
Priyank Gandhi, Hanno Lustig, Alberto Plazzi, 21 August 2016
Governments and regulators are commonly assumed to offer special protection to the stakeholders of large financial institutions during financial crises. This column measures the ex ante cost of implicit shareholder guarantees to financial institutions in crises, and suggests that such protection affects small and large financial institutions differently. The evidence suggests that in the event of a financial crisis, stock investors price in the implicit government guarantees extended to large financial institutions, but not to small ones.
Melissa Dell, Pablo Querubin, 16 August 2016
The nature of US military interventions has become relevant in the face of new growing threats, particularly from so-called Islamic State. While top-down strategies that rely on overwhelming firepower are sometimes favoured by politicians, longer-term strategies use a bottom-up approach, gaining citizens’ support through civic engagement. This column introduces evidence from US actions during the Vietnam War to show that bottom-up approaches are more successful in countering insurgencies than violent, top-down interventions.
Sari Pekkala Kerr, William Kerr, 10 August 2016
Increased hostility to immigration has been a key driver of the rise of right-wing populist movements across the world. At the same time, local governments – notably in the US – have designed work programmes to attract immigrant entrepreneurs to their areas. This column explores the types of businesses founded by immigrants and their growth patterns, and examines how these outcomes relate to immigrants’ age at arrival to the US. Immigrant entrepreneurs experience greater volatility – they fail more frequently, but those that persist experience greater employment growth than their native counterparts.
Silda Nikaj, Joshua J. Miller, John Tauras, 28 July 2016
Progress in adopting smoking bans across the US has been slow, despite a majority of Americans supporting a ban in public places. This column uses aggregate and establishment-level data from Texas to examine the economic effects of smoking bans on bars and restaurants. The results suggest that bars and restaurants are not adversely affected by the adoption of a ban.
Marco Becht, Andrea Polo, Stefano Rossi, 20 July 2016
Many corporate acquirers impose losses on their shareholders. Conflicted or overconfident CEOs and boards embark on acquisitions that are not in the best interest of the owners of the firm. The governance tool of shareholder voting can represent a potential solution. This column shows that in the UK, where bids for relatively large targets require mandatory shareholder approval, shareholders gain when the transaction is conditional on a vote and lose when it is not. The evidence suggests that the vote puts a constraint on the amount the CEO can offer for the target.
Alisdair McKay, Ricardo Reis, 14 July 2016
Brexit has raised the possibility of a recession on both sides of the Atlantic. Unable to use traditional remedies like monetary or fiscal policy stimulus, policymakers may consider automatic fiscal stabilisers. This column examines the impact of automatic stabilisers through social insurance on the business cycle, and how its impact can be used to mitigate recession. Unemployment insurance or food stamps would be better than progressive taxes at stimulating aggregate demand. The main economic channels policymakers must consider are those related to risk and precautionary savings.
Ghazala Azmat, Rosa Ferrer, 12 July 2016
Gender gaps in earnings exist in high-skill industries despite male and female workers having similar educational backgrounds. This column uses evidence from the legal industry to assess how performance affects career outcomes across genders. Performance gaps, defined by hours billed and new revenue raised, explain a substantial share of the gender gaps in earnings, as women’s working hours are affected by having young children while those of men are not. An important implication is that gender-based inequality in earnings and career outcomes might not decrease in the near future as more high-skilled workers are explicitly compensated based on performance.
Stephen Billings , David Deming, Stephen Ross, 11 July 2016
The propensity for youths to commit crime has long been associated with where they live. This column looks at how the school they attend can shape this relationship. Exploiting changes to school catchment areas in a US school district, it shows that concentrations of students with similar characteristics and from similar neighbourhoods at the same school increase arrest rates, if these potential peers live close to each other. Moreover, youths who live near each other and are in the same school and grade are more likely to commit crimes together. Policies to decrease segregation in schools could thus be effective in reducing crime.
Sandra Black, Jason Furman, Emma Rackstraw, Nirupama Rao, 06 July 2016
Labour force participation among men ages 25-54 in the US has been falling for more than six decades. This column examines this longstanding decline, its potential causes, and its implications for public policy and the future of the US labour market.
Janet Currie, Hannes Schwandt, 02 July 2016
Inequalities in mortality rates are a good indicator of economic wellbeing, but most of the existing literature does little to distinguish between developments in infants and adults. This column uses extensive US data to analyse mortality trends across all age groups. It finds that the health of the next generation in the poorest areas of the US has improved significantly and the race gap has declined significantly. Underlying explanations include declines in the prevalence of smoking and improved nutrition, and a major cause is social policies that target the most disadvantaged.
Daron Acemoglu, Jacob Moscona, James Robinson, 27 June 2016
The ‘great inventions’ view of productivity growth ascribes the excellent growth from 1920 to 1970 in the US to a handful of advances, and suggests that today poor productivity performance is driven by a lack of breakthrough discoveries. This column argues instead that the development of an effective governmental infrastructure in the 19th century accounted for a major part of US technological progress and prominence in this period. Infrastructure design thus appears to have the power to reinvigorate technological progress.