Over the past decades, economists working on growth have ‘rediscovered’ the importance of history, leading to the emergence of a vibrant, far-reaching inter-disciplinary stream of work. This column introduces a new eBook in three volumes which examines key themes in this emergent literature and discusses the impact they have on our understanding of the long-run influence of historical events on current economics.
Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, 23 January 2017
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.
Christopher Blattman, Stefan Dercon, 20 December 2016
African countries are scrambling to bring industrial firms into the continent, and workers face a choice between industrial jobs and self-employment. This column reports the results of a randomised controlled trial of 1,000 job applicants in Ethiopia, which suggests that industrial workers earned no more in a year than those given training as entrepreneurs, and had higher disability rates. Two-thirds of industrial workers chose to quit, suggesting that low wages and poor working conditions are a concern for policymakers who promote industrialisation.
Axel Dreher, Sarah Langlotz, Silvia Marchesi, 02 December 2016
Despite its many benefits, donor governments show little enthusiasm for budget aid, instead preferring to give project aid over which they have greater control. This column argues that budget aid is better than project-specific aid because it attributes full responsibility of expenditure to the recipient government, allowing voters to respond at the ballot boxes to how well the aid is used.
Vincenzo Bove, Leandro Elia, 16 November 2016
There is much dispute over whether immigration is beneficial or detrimental to the host country, and any conclusions are often event-driven rather than evidence-based. This column explores evidence on how immigration affected economic development between 1960 and 2013 through its effect on the cultural and ethnic composition of the destination country. Cultural heterogeneity appears to have had a positive impact on economic development, and the positive effect of diversity seems to have been stronger in developing countries.
Nava Ashraf, 26 October 2016
Delivering public services effectively is crucial for development. Nava Ashraf discusses her research on the importance of getting the right people for public sector jobs. This video was recorded at the International Growth Centre.
Brock Smith, Thomas McGregor, Samuel Wills, 28 August 2016
One of the biggest challenges in fighting poverty is to know where it is. This column describes a new way to measure poverty by using satellites to count people who live in darkness at night. This shows that the economic benefits of oil booms don’t trickle down to the very poor.
Holger Görg, Christiane Krieger-Boden, Peter Nunnenkamp, 23 August 2016
In theory, firms in developing countries benefit from viable, well-used, stable, and efficient local financial markets as a source of investment for local firms. Financial markets in the home countries of multinationals can also act as a source of FDI to the developing world when local financial markets are weak. This column discusses recent empirical data that support both arguments, and argues that advocates of tighter regulation for financial markets should consider the wider impact on developing country economies.
Thorvaldur Gylfason, 22 August 2016
One-dimensional indicators such as GNI per capita are known to be flawed measures of wellbeing. The Human Development Index (HDI) introduced dimensions of health and education alongside income. This column argues that an HDI adjusted for inequality and hours worked gives deeper insight into a country's economic standing. Using this composite measure, the US falls from first to seventh among G8 countries.
Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, Romain Wacziarg, 31 July 2016
The current refugee crisis has highlighted the importance of understanding how ethnic and cultural differences affect social cohesion. This column investigates the links between ethnicity and culture, and the relationship between diversity and civil conflict. It finds that globally, there appears to be little overlap between ethnic identity and cultural identity. Also, ethnic diversity per se has no effect on civil conflict. It is when differences in culture coincide with differences in ethnicity that conflict becomes more likely.
Eduardo Cavallo, Tomás Serebrisky, 29 July 2016
The Latin American and Caribbean region is trapped in a vicious cycle of low savings and poor use of these savings. This column describes how this problem is reinforced by the current financial system, and prescribes three remedies to policymakers and households to break the cycle. The government should create a better environment for saving and develop a better financial system, but it should also tackle investment distortions and fix broken pension systems. Meanwhile, a change in saving culture should be encouraged from the ground up, with financial education offered to citizens early on in their lives.
Rajiv Kumar, 22 July 2016
Despite Narendra Modi’s successful leadership as chief minister of Gujarat, some question his ability to achieve the same progress at the national level as India’s prime minister. This column analyses Modi’s political background and state- and national-level experience to assess his capacity to navigate India through a politically and economically important time towards its goal of becoming a prosperous economy. It finds that while Modi can lean on his Gujarati experience to some extent, in other aspects he will have to depart from his incremental approach to policymaking in favour of radical changes, particularly in the area of employment maximisation.
Rajesh Ramachandran, 11 July 2016
In this video, Rajesh Ramachandran discusses the effects of teaching in a colonial language in sub-Saharan countries. The research shows that teaching in a colonial language actually worsens educational attainments. This video was recorded during a UNU-WIDER conference on “Human capital and growth” held in June 2016.
Paul Collier, 06 July 2016
Fragile states cause spillovers not only to their neighbours but also to the rest of the world. In this video, Paul Collier discusses power and authority in fragile states. Legitimacy is built gradually rather than being imposed. This video was recorded during the International Growth Centre’s annual conference held in June 2016 at the LSE.
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.
Jean-Philippe Platteau, Catherine Guirkinger, 01 July 2016
Family is a key institution in many countries, particularly developing countries. In this video, Jean-Philippe Platteau and Catherine Guirkinger discuss the role of families in society. In countries where the judicial system is weak, families are important in settling conflicts and can replace formal institutions. Families can also change the impact of public policies. This video was recorded during the conference on “Economic Development and Institutions” held in Paris in June 2016.
Munshi Kaivan, 29 June 2016
Institutions are implicit or explicit rules that bring people with the same objective together. In this video, Kaivan Munshi discusses the role of informal community-based institutions in migration and the development process. Pre-existing social groups support migration and eventually development. This video was shot during the conference on “Economic Development and Institutions” held in Paris in June 2016.
Samuel Bowles, 27 June 2016
Institutions define the rules of the game, and understanding them allows to us to understand how economies change. In this video, Sam Bowles discusses the role of institutions for wealth inequality and redistribution of wealth. Politics and institutions are the key to understanding inequality. This video was shot during the Conference on Economic Development and Institutions held in January 2016 at the University of Namur.
Andrew Bernard, Valerie Smeets, Frederic Warzynski, 22 June 2016
Deindustrialisation is a major policy concern in high-income countries not only because of resulting unemployment, but also because of the long-run implications for growth. This column uses evidence from Denmark to analyse whether it is being measured in the right way. A substantial fraction of the decline in manufacturing actually reflects the changing nature of production. Service sector firms that still perform many of the value-adding activities of traditional manufacturing firms should not be overlooked by policymakers.
Marianne Bertrand, Patricia Cortes, Claudia Olivetti, Jessica Pan, 21 June 2016
Marriage rates of skilled and unskilled women have evolved quite differently across countries since 1995. The rate is lower overall for skilled women but the gap is narrowing, and even reversing, in some countries. This column uses evidence from 23 countries between 1995 and 2010 to consider how skilled women’s labour market opportunities impact their marriage prospects in different societies. Generally, more conservative societies have lower marriage rates for skilled women relative to unskilled women, with the effects of an increase in skilled women’s wages depending on the degree of conservatism.