Transport infrastructure investment is a cornerstone of growth-promoting strategies around the world. However, investment in new infrastructure is not always conducive to stronger economic performance. This column argues that the lack of positive economic returns may be due to institutional failures mitigating the growth effects of public capital expenditures. In contexts marked by weak and inefficient governments and widespread corruption, different types of road investments yield low or no economic returns.
Riccardo Crescenzi, Marco Di Cataldo, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 11 April 2017
The Editors, 30 March 2017
This column introduces a new series – CEPR Flashbacks – which highlights past CEPR reports that are relevant to today’s challenges. In many cases, the analysis is highly pertinent to today’s policy questions, while in others the reports provide useful context on how leading thinkers approached similar problems in the past. The first CEPR Flashback highlights a 1995 report, “Flexible Integration”, which suggested a solution to the problem that EU leaders are tackling in their current reflection on the Future of Europe.
David de la Croix, Matthias Doepke, Joel Mokyr, 02 March 2017
The role of specific institutions was important in giving Europe a technological advantage well before the Industrial Revolution. This column argues that apprenticeships were crucial to Europe’s rise. Unlike in the extended families or clans in other parts of the world, apprentices in Europe’s guild systems could learn from any master. New techniques and innovations could thus spread rapidly across the continent, without being constrained by family lines.
Pierre Cahuc, Olivier Charlot, Franck Malherbet, Hélène Benghalem, Emeline Limon, 05 January 2017
Temporary job contracts account for a substantial proportion of the workforce in countries such as France and Spain, but they can result in high job turnover and instability. This column assesses the impact of government policies that impose taxes on temporary contracts to induce employers to lengthen job durations. Such policies a negative impact on the labour market, reducing the mean duration of jobs and decreasing job creation. The introduction of open-ended contracts with no termination cost for separations occurring at short tenure may be more effective.
Nauro Campos, Karim El Aynaoui, Prakash Loungani, 05 December 2016
Thirty years ago, a distinguished group of economists advocated a ‘two-handed’ approach to unemployment that targeted supply as much as demand. This column examines recent work on the effectiveness of cyclical and structural policies – the two ‘hands’ – targeting unemployment in Europe. It further considers the pressures from greater integration of capital and labour markets on the success of these reforms. Cyclical measures, particularly the easing of monetary policy, have been successful, but further structural reforms are still needed in many countries where average unemployment remains too high.
Olympia Bover, Jose Maria Casado, Sónia Costa, Philip Du Caju, Yvonne McCarthy, Eva Sierminska, Panagiota Tzamourani, Ernesto Villanueva, Tibor Zavadil, 08 November 2016
Household micro-data reveal striking differences in secured debt holdings across Eurozone countries. This column presents new evidence on the role of household characteristics and country institutions in accounting for the cross-country patterns observed. In countries with lengthier asset repossession periods, young or low-income households face higher borrowing costs, leading to a lower probability of holding mortgages.
Guglielmo Barone, Francesco David, Guido de Blasio, 10 September 2016
EU regional policies aim to lead regions onto a path of self-sustaining growth. Fully successful interventions should imply a higher growth rate, not only during the treatment (when the region benefits from the transfers), but also after the expiry of the programme (when the financing terminates). This column uses evidence from the Abruzzi region in Southern Italy to document that when the party is over and the funding ends, growth may slow down significantly.
Alena Bičáková, Štěpán Jurajda, 26 July 2016
Positive assortative matching between college graduates has been well documented in marriage markets. Using European survey data, this column explores whether graduates form couples within their field of study. A third of married or cohabiting graduate couples both studied within the same field. These results are driven in part by assortative matching, and there are notable differences across fields of study as well as across countries.
Paul Hünermund, Georg Licht, 08 July 2016
European countries are increasingly coordinating their national research and development policies. However, supra-national R&D programmes entail problems from a governance standpoint. This column discusses the problem of cross-subsidisation between participating countries. European joint programming initiatives are usually designed to avoid international transfer payments. Empirical evidence suggests that doing so comes at the price of decreased efficiency.
Giorgio Brunello, Guglielmo Weber, Christoph Weiss, 15 June 2016
Early life conditions can have long-lasting effects on individual development and labour market success. Using a sequence of reforms that raised the minimum school-leaving age in Europe, this column investigates how access to books at home influences educational and labour market outcomes. The returns to an additional year of education for individuals brought up in households with few books are much lower than for the luckier ones who had more than a shelf of books at home.
Jean-Marc Fournier, 26 May 2016
The limits of the European Single Market have often been highlighted. This column argues that although implicit barriers remain, the Single Market has delivered substantial benefits to member countries. New empirical evidence is presented of the trade and FDI gains that Central and Eastern European countries have enjoyed since joining the Single Market. On top of making regulations more competition-friendly, regulatory harmonisation can boost the economic links between countries.
Matthias Doepke, Fabian Kindermann, 03 May 2016
Europe is in the midst of a major demographic crisis, with many countries facing ultra-low fertility rates. This column uses survey data from 19 European countries to show how low fertility can be traced to disagreement within couples about having babies. In low-fertility countries, it is usually the women who bear most of the burden of childbearing, and who veto having more babies. Fertility can be raised by policies that specifically lower cost to women of childcare, whereas general subsidies for childbearing are much less effective.
Gabriel Felbermayr, Jasmin Gröschl, Thomas Steinwachs, 27 April 2016
The refugee crisis has placed Europe’s Schengen Agreement under stress, with some calling for the reintroduction of identity checks and other border controls. This column presents new estimates of the potential costs of such controls. On average, the removal of controls at one border acts like the removal of a 0.7% tariff. The controls currently notified to the EU Commission could lower EU GDP by around €12.5 billion. The full demise of Schengen would be about three times as costly.
Ioana Marinescu, Jose Ignacio García Pérez, Judit Vall Castello, 07 April 2016
Short-term contracts are viewed as a way of stimulating youth employment. This column presents evidence that this is the case in Spain, but that such contracts are also detrimental to job stability and lifetime earnings. The negative effects get stronger the longer workers are exposed to fixed-term contracts.
Christopher Pissarides, 12 February 2016
There are certain conditions needed to make a common currency across diverse economies a success and the Eurozone is clearly not satisfying them. This column argues that institutions and policies in place six years after the debt crisis have mitigated the risks of another Great Recession. But they have not done enough to alleviate the need for fiscal transfers in the future. We need ever-closer fiscal cooperation, with some caveats.
Christian Krohn, 12 February 2016
The role of equities in Europe’s capital markets has diminished since the Global Crisis and is only slowly recovering to its prior level. This column argues that revitalising its equity markets has much to offer Europe in terms of funding business growth, creating jobs, and delivering long-term pension returns for the ageing population. The root causes of Europe’s underutilised equity markets are both cultural and regulatory. Understanding and addressing these barriers are the next necessary steps towards the full utilisation of equities.
Jacob Kirkegaard, 25 January 2016
The migrant crisis will continue to top headlines in 2016. This column takes a detailed look at the EU’s response to dealing with migration, concluding that everything points towards failure as the likely outcome. Unlike the most critical aspects of the Eurozone Crisis, the main drivers of the current migration emergency are external factors such as war. These circumstances are highly unlikely to change in the medium term. The hardball politics and threats that proved extraordinarily effective in coercing member states into accepting domestic political conditionality in return for financial aid during the Eurozone Crisis are doomed to fail when it comes to migration.
Daiji Kawaguchi, Ayako Kondo, 13 January 2016
Economists frequently discuss the ‘scarring effects’ the Great Recession has had on young people in Europe. This column tentatively challenges the received wisdom of permanent scarring. Young graduates mitigate some of the negative welfare effects of graduating during bad times by living with their parents for longer.
Sheilagh Ogilvie, 23 December 2015
A vocal set of economists argue that economies can succeed in the absence of strong state and public institutions. This column looks to the ‘Champagne fairs’ of medieval Europe for lessons in how important public institutions can be. Public authorities are crucial – for good or for ill. When rulers provided these as generalised institutional services to everyone, the Champagne fairs flourished. When they granted them to privileged groups only, trade declined and business moved elsewhere.
Nauro Campos, Fabrizio Coricelli, 11 December 2015
Whatever the result of Britain’s upcoming in-or-out referendum on EU membership, its relationship with the EU will change substantially. To assess these changes, it is important to understand how Britain has benefited from EU membership. This column argues that EU membership has brought benefits through three key mechanisms – trade, foreign investment, and finance. The current focus on UK exports to and imports from the EU may severely underestimate the true potential costs to Britain of Brexit.