Many countries are increasing the age at which people can start claiming state-funded pensions. One objection often raised is that such policies are unfair because some will be too unhealthy to remain in paid work. This column compares employment rates in England of older people today to those of earlier generations, and also to those of younger people today. These comparisons suggest that a significant minority of older people appear to be unable to work on the grounds of health alone.
James Banks, Carl Emmerson, Gemma Tetlow, 07 May 2016
Juergen Matthes, Berthold Busch, 27 April 2016
Studies attempting the quantify the economic effects for the UK of Brexit have come up with conflicting results – ranging from significant advantages to marked losses. Using a meta-analysis, this column shows this can be explained by different methods and assumptions, as well as varying coverage of effects. The forward-looking, model-based studies are unable to capture many positive effects of economic integration on welfare and growth. In comparison, backward-looking studies tend to find significantly larger trade effects of economic integration agreements. The meta-analysis suggests that in case of Brexit, GDP losses for the UK in the range of 10% or more cannot be ruled out in the long run.
Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, Randi Hjalmarsson, 19 April 2016
Women remain underrepresented in many aspects of political and civic life. This column explores the empirical significance of representation, exploiting a 1919 law that made women eligible to serve on English juries. Archival court data show that female representation boosted convictions in sex offenses cases. The magnitude of results highlights how dramatically underrepresentation can influence the functioning of civic institutions.
Julia Tanndal, Daniel Waldenström, 13 April 2016
Financial deregulation in the US has been shown to be associated with rising income inequality over the past four decades. This column looks at the income effects of financial deregulation in the UK and Japan during the 1980s and 1990s. As in the US, deregulation substantially increased the shares of income going to the very top of the distribution. These findings highlight the importance of financial markets in the evolution of income inequality in society.
Christian Hilber, Wouter Vermeulen, 10 April 2016
It costs a relatively large amount of money to buy a house in the UK – something readers from the UK will almost certainly agree with. But economists differ over why this is. This column argues that strict planning regulations are a prime culprit for sky-high prices and that without any real regulatory change, it is the young that will suffer.
Elias Einiö, Henry Overman, 07 April 2016
Areas experiencing poor economic performance are often targeted by governments with programmes aimed at improving employment. However, there are concerns that any increases in employment come at the cost of reduced employment elsewhere. This column examines the displacement effects of one such programme in the UK. While employment increased within the targeted areas, there were comparable decreases in employment just outside the areas’ boundaries. These findings suggest place-based policies should focus on traded activities that are less susceptible to local displacement effects.
Swati Dhingra, Hanwei Huang, Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, Thomas Sampson, John Van Reenen, 04 April 2016
The economic consequences of leaving the EU are at the heart of the Brexit debate. This column studies how changes in trade and fiscal transfers to the EU following Brexit would affect living standards in the UK. Across a range of scenarios, Brexit leads to lower income per capita, but the magnitude of the loss depends on what trade policies the UK adopts post-Brexit. To minimise the economic costs of Brexit, the UK would have to remain closely integrated into the Single Market.
Angus Armstrong, 09 March 2016
The upcoming vote on the UK’s membership of the EU has sparked a vibrant debate on topics ranging from sovereignty and sterling to migrants and the military. This column discusses evidence on the economics of Britain’s EU membership drawn from a recent conference where both sides of the debate were represented.
Swati Dhingra, Thomas Sampson, 04 March 2016
In June, UK voters will decide whether to remain part of the EU. This column explores the UK’s options if a majority votes in favour of Brexit. One possibility is for the UK, like Norway, to join the European Economic Area and thereby retain access to the European Single Market. An alternative would be to negotiate bilateral treaties with the EU, as Switzerland has done. All options, however, involve a trade-off between political sovereignty and economic benefits.
Nauro F. Campos, Corrado Macchiarelli, 03 March 2016
There seems to be a robust consensus that the relationship between the countries in the EU that use the euro as their currency (‘euro-ins’) and those that do not (‘euro-outs’) is the most important of the four areas in the ‘new settlement’ between the UK and the EU. This column presents new econometric estimates showing that, after the introduction of the euro, the UK and Eurozone business cycles became significantly more synchronised. It is likely this upsurge in synchronisation increased the costs of a potential UK exit from the EU.
Peter Egger, Martin Ruf, Valeria Merlo, Georg Wamser, 09 February 2016
Many countries exempt foreign-sourced income from taxation at home, with income taxed only in the source country. In 2009, the UK moved from a system of tax credit to a system of tax exemption of foreign-earned income of firms. This column looks at the effects of this reform on firm behaviour. Immediately following the reform, firms were induced to pay significantly more dividends to the UK and decreased their investments. But neither effect persisted in the long run.
Alessandro Gavazza, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, 31 January 2016
The internet is lauded for increasing access to information, but it is unclear whether this translates into a better-informed and more engaged voting populace. This column uses UK data to determine how the internet has changed voting patterns and aggregate policy choices. Internet penetration is found to be associated with a decrease in voter turnout, mainly among the lower socioeconomic demographic. Internet diffusion is also found to reduce local government expenditure, in particular on policies targeting less-educated voters. These findings point to a trade-off between the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘political divide’.
Wouter den Haan, Martin Ellison, Ethan Ilzetzki, Michael McMahon, Ricardo Reis, 28 January 2016
The beginning of 2016 has seen dramatic developments in key markets, including falls in share prices, low oil prices, and a slowdown in some emerging market economies. This column summarises the views expressed on these issues by leading experts in the monthly Centre for Macroeconomics survey. While all recognise the considerable uncertainty in the world economy, fewer than a third fear that these events will have a significant negative impact on the UK’s economic recovery. The prevailing argument is that any negative effects of lower foreign demand and market instability will be compensated by the benefits of lower oil prices.
Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, 15 December 2015
The recent influx of refugees to Europe has stoked security fears and created anxiety about the social and economic consequences. This column provides new quantitative indicators for the intensity of migration-related fears and policy uncertainty, based on newspaper articles. The indices are presented for the US, UK, France, and Germany, and extend back to 1995. They show that recent levels of concern and uncertainty in European countries about migration are unprecedented.
Nauro F. 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.
Facundo Alvaredo, Tony Atkinson, Salvatore Morelli, 08 December 2015
The concentration of personal wealth has received a lot of attention since the publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. This column investigates the UK and finds wealth distribution to be highly concentrated. The data seem to suggest that the top wealth share has increased in the UK over the first decade of this century.
Italo Colantone, Rosario Crinò, Laura Ogliari, 04 December 2015
Influential studies have shown that trade liberalisation is associated with substantial adjustment costs for workers in import-competing jobs. This column uses UK data to shed light on one such cost that has not been considered to date – subjective well-being. Import competition is found to substantially raise mental distress, through worsened labour market conditions and increased stress on the job. These findings provide evidence of an important hidden cost of globalisation.
Angus Armstrong, Francesco Caselli, Jagjit Chadha, Wouter den Haan, 02 August 2015
Does monetary policy really face a zero lower bound or could policy rates be pushed materially below zero per cent? And would the benefits of reforms to achieve negative policy rates outweigh the costs? This column, which reports the views of the leading UK-based macroeconomists, suggests that there is no strong support for reforming the monetary system to allow policy rates to be set at negative levels.
Terence Cheng, Joan Costa-i-Font, Nattavudh Powdthavee, 31 July 2015
Economists have traditionally viewed healthcare as a luxury good – consumption of it will increase more than proportionally as income rises. This column challenges this view, exploiting the windfall of lottery winnings to estimate elasticities for healthcare demand in the UK. Results suggest that income elasticities for public healthcare services are close to zero. A medium to large windfall is found instead to increase the uptake of private health insurance and preventative services. This suggests that rising incomes will increase private sector demand, but will leave public healthcare demand unchanged.
Jim Tomlinson, 05 July 2015
In Britain today, a majority of those in poverty live in working, rather than non-working, households. This challenges the long-held notion that paid work offers a route out of poverty. This column argues that structural changes in the labour market have brought about profound changes in the social security system. A failure to acknowledge these underlying changes means that dialogues about the political direction of the British economy can be problematic and potentially misleading.