David Byrne, Dan Sichel, 22 August 2017

One explanation given for the apparent recent slowdown in labour productivity growth in advanced economies is poor measurement. This column argues that while the available evidence on mismeasurement does not in fact provide an explanation for the slowdown, innovation is much more rapid than would be inferred from official measures, and on-going gains in the digital economy make the productivity slowdown even more puzzling. At the same time, this continued technical advance could provide the basis for a future pickup in productivity growth.

Philippe Aghion, Antonin Bergeaud, Timo Boppart, Peter Klenow, Huiyu Li, 16 August 2017

Slowing growth of total factor productivity has led some to suggest that the world is running out of ideas for innovation. This column suggests that the way output is measured is vital to assessing this, and quantifies the role of imputation in output measurement bias. By differentiating between truly ‘new’ and incumbent products, it finds missing growth in the US economy. Accounting for this missing growth will allow statistical offices to improve their methodology and more readily recognise the ready availability of new ideas, but also has implications for optimal growth and inflation targeting policies.

Carol Graham, 28 July 2017

Despite the long-held belief that high levels of inequality in the US signal future opportunity, a number of studies suggest that this is no longer the reality. This column examines trends in inequality from the perspective of well-being and focuses on non-economic aspects of welfare, including hope. The results reveal stark differences across people, races, and places in the US. Poor minorities – and blacks in particular – are much more hopeful than poor whites, while urban places are more hopeful than are rural ones, as are places with higher levels of diversity.

Nicholas Crafts, Terence Mills, 17 July 2017

Estimates of trend total factor productivity growth in the US have been significantly reduced, contributing to fears that the slowdown is permanent. This column provides an historical perspective on the relationship between estimated trends in total factor productivity growth and subsequent outcomes. It argues that In the past, trend growth estimates have not been a good guide for future medium-term outcomes, and ‘techno-optimists’ should not be put off by time-series econometrics.

Ross Levine, Chen Lin, Zigan Wang, 26 June 2017

While the causes and consequences of mergers have received a lot of scholarly attention, geographic factors have thus far been neglected. Using US data, this column argues that greater geographic overlap of the subsidiaries and branches of two bank holding companies increases the likelihood of the two merging, and also boosts the cumulative abnormal returns of the acquirer, target, and merged companies. It also discusses how network overlap can affect synergies and value creation.

Alberto Alesina, Stefanie Stantcheva, Edoardo Teso, 21 June 2017

Americans are generally thought to view the economic system as fair and see wealth as a reward for ability and effort, while Europeans tend to believe that the economic system is unfair, and that wealth is the result of circumstances. This column tests this using new evidence on beliefs about intergenerational mobility in four European countries and the US, and confirms that Europeans do indeed tend to be overly pessimistic about moving up the social ladder compared to reality, while Americans are overly optimistic. These perceptions have important implications for how redistribution and equal opportunity policies will be received.

Hidemichi Fujii, Shunsuke Managi, 16 June 2017

Patent applications are a good indicator of the nature of technological progress. This column compares trends in applications for artificial intelligence patents in Japan and the US. One finding is that the Japanese market appears to be less attractive for artificial intelligence technology application, perhaps due to its stricter regulations on the collection and use of data.

Nezih Guner, Remzi Kaygusuz, Gustavo Ventura, 10 June 2017

Childcare subsidy provision in the US remains substantially lower than in many other developed economies. This column compares the potential effects of expanding three existing subsidy programmes in the US. It also argues, however, that amassing majority support for the expansion of any of the programmes would be difficult given the relatively few number of households the transfers benefit. 

Caroline Freund, 07 June 2017

In assessing the underlying causes of the US’ significant trade deficits, the Trump administration’s focus appears to be on alleged unfair trade practices of foreign countries. This column argues that international trade policy has a negligible effect on trade balances. The aggregate US trade deficit results from macroeconomic pressures, while bilateral deficits are due to structural factors, supply chains, and how trade is measured. 

Lubos Pastor, Pietro Veronesi, 25 May 2017

Since 2000, political uncertainty has had a strong influence on market volatility in the US. Since Donald Trump became president, however, high policy uncertainty has not translated into high market volatility. Building on a theoretical framework linking stock prices and political news, this column argues that the US market does not respond to political uncertainty because political news coming from the new administration has been unreliable and difficult for investors to interpret. 

Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 15 December 2015

Daron Acemoglu, David Autor, David Dorn, Gordon Hanson, Brendan Price, 28 September 2014

Christiane Baumeister, Lutz Kilian, 18 May 2017

The sluggish growth of the US economy after the 2014-2016 decline in the oil price surprised many economists. This column argues that it should have been expected. The modest stimulus to private consumption and non-oil business investment was largely offset by a large decline in investment by the oil sector. Growth was further slowed by a simultaneous global economic slowdown, reflected in lower US exports. 

Nicholas Bloom, Erik Brynjolfsson, Lucia Foster, Ron Jarmin, Megha Patnaik, Itay Saporta Eksten, John Van Reenen, 17 May 2017

Disentangling the relationship between management practices and productivity has been hampered by the absence of large sample data across plants and firms. This column exploits a new survey covering US manufacturing to show that management practices vary both among and within companies. Furthermore, management practices are just as important for productivity as a number of other factors associated with successful businesses, such as technology adoption. 

Georg Graetz, Guy Michaels, 13 May 2017

Recoveries from recessions in the US used to involve rapid job generation, but job growth has failed to match GDP recovery after recent US recessions. This column examines the role of technology in this and asks whether jobless recoveries are a wider problem outside of the US. In the US, industries that are more prone to technological change experienced slower job growth during recent recoveries, but it appears unlikely that modern technologies are causing jobless recoveries outside of the US. This poses a puzzle as to the nature of recent jobless US recoveries. 

Timm Boenke, Markus M. Grabka, Carsten Schroeder, Edward Wolff, 10 May 2017

International comparisons of private household wealth place the US among the richest countries, whereas German households appear rather poor. This column argues that as these rankings are based on average household net wealth, they do not tell the whole story. An augmented wealth approach that adds social security wealth to net wealth reduces wealth inequalities in both countries and the wealth gap between the two. 

Don Fullerton, Nirupama Rao, 03 May 2017

In the 2012 US presidential election, Mitt Romney famously asserted that 47% of the population were long-term dependents of the government – ‘takers’, not ‘givers’ to the system. This column examines this claim using long-spanning household-level data. Even though many households find themselves not paying tax or receiving public benefits in at least some years, only a small fraction consistently pay no tax or consistently receive public transfers.

Ravi Kanbur, Andy Snell, 30 April 2017

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.

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.