Recent research suggests a point beyond which the benefits of financial development diminish, and further development can even hurt growth. This column describes how a negative relationship between credit and growth emerged strongly after 1990 and was particularly pronounced in the Eurozone, consistent with the notion that an overgrown financial sector weakens economic growth potential. It also argues that slower growth leads to more rapid financial sector expansion. Policymakers need to be aware of the possibility that causality runs in both directions.
Eilyn Yee Lin Chong, Ashoka Mody, Francisco Varela Sandoval, 17 January 2017
Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 21 December 2016
A new set of historical national accounts for Spain constructs estimates of output and expenditure from 1850 onwards, which means we can estimate the evolution of GDP per capita and labour productivity during this period. This column argues that the data demonstrates that GDP per capita captures long-run trends in welfare in Spain, but not short and medium run trends.
Julián Caballero, Andrés Fernández, Jongho Park, 19 December 2016
Emerging economies are substantially reliant on foreign corporate debt issuance, which has major macroeconomic implications. This column quantifies the extent to which debt issuance matters for macroeconomic performance in emerging economies, and how much macro vulnerability it has entailed. It finds evidence that a large increase in debt reliance has had a considerable effect on macroeconomic performance, but suggests that potential negative impacts on overall health of economies can be reduced in the future if policymakers have access to more and better information.
Danny Leipziger, 08 December 2016
Despite lifting millions out of poverty, globalisation is facing growing political opposition. This column surveys the successes and failures of globalisation, and some of the critical policy implications. Globalisation has reached a stage where its benefits have been captured but its costs have been largely ignored. Going forward, governments need to address inequality and social inclusion, boost global investment, and restore confidence.
Federica Coelli, Andreas Moxnes, Karen-Helene Ulltveit-Moe, 21 November 2016
Free trade is under fire, with evidence documenting the distributional impacts and labour adjustment costs of trade liberalisation mounting. This column instead presents new evidence on the benefits of freer trade in terms of growth and innovation. It points to gains that could be lost if support for globalisation is not maintained.
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.
Anna Valero, John Van Reenen, 10 November 2016
Growth in higher education has been driven by the view that human capital is essential for economic and social progress. This column uses a comprehensive international dataset covering 78 countries to show that on average, a 10% increase in the number of universities (roughly adding one more university to the average region in the data) increases a region’s income by 0.4%, with additional effects spilling over to other regions within the same country. In the UK context, the benefits of university expansion are likely to far outweigh the costs.
Dale Jorgenson, Mun S. Ho, Jon Samuels, 01 November 2016
There has been speculation that the low employment rates for younger and less-educated workers in the US reflect a ‘new normal’. This column uses detailed new US data to project output, productivity, and employment rates over the next decade. The results indicate that US economic growth will continue to recover from the Great Recession through the resumption of growth in productivity and labour input. The recovery of employment rates for less-educated and younger workers will make an important contribution to future economic growth.
Ric Colacito, Bridget Hoffmann, Toan Phan, 28 October 2016
Policy proposals to offset the effects of global warming would be strengthened if we knew more about the net economic benefits of climate action relative to business-as-usual. This column argues that estimates may understate the future costs of business as usual because of heterogeneous seasonal effects, and because more business sectors than previously assumed suffer a negative impact from increased summer temperatures. The cost of inaction may be equal to one-third of the growth rate of US GDP over the next 100 years.
Antonio Fatás, Lawrence Summers, 12 October 2016
Conventional wisdom on supply and demand suggests that demand shocks are cyclical or transitory, and that only technology shocks are responsible for trend changes. This column argues that cyclical events can have permanent effects on demand, and therefore GDP. It is time for policymakers to start considering the possibility of hysteresis seriously.
Lars Boerner, Battista Severgnini, 10 October 2016
The public mechanical clock, which first appeared in European cities in the late 13th century, was one of the most important innovations in history. This column looks at the impact on growth of the arrival of this general purpose technology. European cities that were quick to install mechanical clocks enjoyed greater growth than late adopters. However, it takes some time for the effects from fundamental innovations of this type to be realised because the technology must be accepted both culturally and socially and then applied to related economic activities.
Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna, 04 October 2016
Some economists see currently faltering GDP growth as part of a longer-term trend for advanced economies, reflecting their belief that the bulk of technological innovation is now behind humankind. This column argues that neither history nor the present-day pace of scientific discovery supports the notion of diminishing returns to technological innovation. The challenge for growth economists is that analytic models are poorly suited to capturing and setting society’s expectations for these impending disruptions.
Julia Ruiz Pozuelo, Amy Slipowitz, Guillermo Vuletin, 30 September 2016
The debate over whether democracy causes economic prosperity and growth dates back millennia. Recent empirical results suggest that democratisation has a sizable positive effect on economic growth, but endogeneity and reverse causality may be driving these results. This column uses new data from surveys of democracy experts to solve the endogeneity puzzle. The positive association between democracy and economic growth is a reflection of economic turmoil causing the emergence of democratic rule, rather than democracy causing more economic growth.
Miguel Niño-Zarazúa, Laurence Roope, Finn Tarp, 20 September 2016
Since the turn of the century, income inequality has risen to be among the most prominent policy issues of our time. This column looks at inequality trends in recent decades. While relative global inequality has fallen, insufficient economic convergence, together with substantial growth in per capita incomes, has resulted in increased absolute inequality since the mid-1970s. The inclusivity aspect of growth is now more imperative than ever.
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.
Aida Caldera, Alain de Serres, Naomitsu Yashiro, 04 September 2016
Structural reforms can have adverse effects in the short run if implemented under weak macroeconomic conditions. This column argues that prioritising reform measures that bring short-term benefits even in a bad conjuncture, and packaging them to benefit from reform complementarities across product and labour markets, remains the most promising growth strategy, especially in the post-Global Crisis context
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.
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.
Marcela Eslava, Xavier Freixas, 31 May 2016
Public development banks play a significant role in the allocation of credit to businesses that may be unable to attain credit under normal circumstances, despite generating positive externalities. But there is concern that lending by these institutions may end up being allocated inefficiently. This column considers the costly screening that banks must do to allocate funds. It finds that the inefficient allocation of credit may arise when banks are unable to fully internalise the benefits of possible projects. Direct lending and the implementation of subsidies for intermediated lending are two possible ways to counter expensive screening.
Fredrik Andersson, Lars Jonung, 30 May 2016
The volume of credit to Swedish households has grown twice as fast as incomes since the mid-1990s. This has resulted in both rising house prices and rising household debt. This column argues that these trends expose Sweden to important economic vulnerabilities. Curbing these vulnerabilities will require prompt action by the authorities.