Economic Consequences of the Conflict in Ukraine

Barbara Biasi, Song Ma, 23 May 2022

Higher education programmes are essential for innovation and economic growth. This column introduces the education–innovation gap, a metric that captures the distance between education content and the knowledge frontier. Among US higher education institutions, the education–innovation gap is significantly lower for courses taught by instructors who are more active in producing research. The gap is higher in schools with students from lower socioeconomic status. On average, exposure to frontier knowledge is associated with better student outcomes.

Bruno Albuquerque, Alexandra Varadi, 23 May 2022

Mortgage payment holidays were introduced in the UK March 2020 to help households who might have struggled with mortgage payments during the Covid-19 pandemic. Using transaction-level data, this column finds that payment holidays supported consumption during the pandemic for more financially vulnerable households, while more financially stable households on a payment holiday increased their savings instead. These results suggests that payment holidays may have been instrumental in supporting household balance-sheets following the negative aggregate shock triggered by Covid-19. 

David Ubilava, Justin V. Hastings, Kadir Atalay, 22 May 2022

We tend to associate rioting and mass protest with cities, but a surge in agricultural commodity prices can incite social unrest in rural areas as well. This column shows that rising cereal prices pose an elevated risk of violence in Africa, where agriculture represents a large share of the economy. The authors find that attacks on civilians increase during the harvest season and dissipate as the year progresses – findings that can help pinpoint, on a yearly basis, when conflicts will worsen and where enhanced food security and civilian protections should be deployed.

Romesh Vaitilingam, 21 May 2022

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues and many call for a strengthening of sanctions, an alternative to a full energy embargo has been discussed in the form of EU tariffs on imports of Russian gas. The IGM Forum at Chicago Booth invited its panels of leading US and European economists to express their views. As this column reports, nearly three-quarters of the experts consider that high tariffs would be an effective measure to reduce the flow of revenues to Russia while limiting disruption to supplies to Europe. Several panellists suggest the significance of the elasticities of demand for and supply of Russian gas, as well as the mechanisms by which prices are set. 

Debin Ma, Kaixiang Peng, 21 May 2022

A pessimistic view of Chinese agriculture development is based on a Malthusian trap, characterised by diminishing returns to agriculture and a declining land-labour ratio. This column presents stylised empirical facts of 19th and 20th century Chinese agriculture, focusing on the seasonality of labour demand and the resulting rise of sideline employment, to challenge the implications of this view. The reallocation of labour across idle seasons facilitated commercialisation and higher population densities, yet it was industrialisation, occurring outside the agriculture sector, which enabled modernisation. 

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