Pierluigi Balduzzi, Emanuele Brancati, Marco Brianti, Fabio Schiantarelli, 20 February 2020

The effects of political uncertainty can be captured in the spread of sovereign credit default swaps. This column shows how the rise of populist movements in Italy following the Global Crisis and sovereign debt crisis can be traced within the country’s contract price levels, and also highlights the impacts on the real economy. Italy has been an ideal laboratory to explore and learn about the economic consequences of political risk shocks, and the instability there means this is likely to continue to be the case in the future.

Laurence Kotlikoff, 19 February 2020

The US has spent the entire post-war period running a massive and ever-growing Ponzi scheme that takes from the young and gives to the old. This column discusses how the scheme has been and is being run by expanding take-as-you-go-financed Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid systems, by running huge official deficits, and by imposing a larger share of taxes on the young and a smaller share on the old. Take as you go, whether done on or off the books, has done precisely as theoretically predicted – reduced the US’s national saving rate from 13% in the 1950s and 1960s to 3% in the last two decades. This underlies, in large part, a commensurate drop in the domestic investment rate, which was also 13% between 1950 and 1969 and is now running at 4%. The textbook predicted consequence? Lower median labour productivity and median real wage growth.

Enrico Perotti, Oscar Soons, 18 February 2020

A monetary union among diverse economies enhances trade and financial integration, but also has redistributive effects. The column argues that the euro led to implicit devaluations and revaluations, boosting the productive incentives and fiscal capacity of strong members at the cost of others. The euro was thus a transfer union from the start, with implicit flows from the periphery to the core. 

Thushyanthan Baskaran, Zohal Hessami, 18 February 2020

The fact that women are underrepresented in politics is often viewed as an important social problem. But why should it be a problem? This column argues that when too few women hold political office, political decisions may not adequately reflect women’s needs and preferences. Using the example of the public provision of childcare in Germany, it shows that municipalities with a higher share of female councillors expand public childcare more quickly. The fact that the presence of women has substantive effects on policies should be taken into account in current debates around the introduction of gender quotas in politics.

Kai Gehring, Stephan A. Schneider, 18 February 2020

Secessionist parties draw upon rhetoric on cultural identity and political autonomy to garner votes. However, the parties’ electoral success is also influenced by the availability of regional resources. This column examines two secessionist parties in the UK – the Scottish National Party and the Welsh Plaid Cymru – and the divergence in their performance following the discovery of oil within Scotland’s hypothetical maritime borders. It finds that a 10% increase in relative regional wealth is associated with an increase of 3 percentage points in the vote share of secessionist parties. Relative regional resource wealth is more important than absolute wealth, and changes in regional resource wealth only play a role when there is baseline support for secession.

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