Anna Stansbury, Lawrence Summers, 20 February 2018

Since 1973, there has been divergence between labour productivity and the typical worker’s pay in the US as productivity has continued to grow strongly and growth in average compensation has slowed substantially. This column explores the causes and implications of this trend. Productivity growth appears to have continued to push workers’ wages up, with other factors to blame for the divergence. The evidence casts doubt on the idea that rapid technological progress is the primary driver here, suggesting rather that institutional and structural factors are to blame.

Jonathan D. Ostry, Andrew Berg, Siddharth Kothari, 19 February 2018

While there is consensus that structural reforms can increase growth, there is also a fear that certain reforms can exacerbate inequality. This column argues – based on a dataset covering financial, institutional, and real sector reforms – that certain reforms do indeed increase inequality but despite this, the net effect on growth remains positive.

Lorenzo Coviello, Uri Gneezy, Lorenz Götte, 18 February 2018

Measuring the returns to search engine marketing accurately is difficult, but one study suggested that if eBay were to suspend its branded search ads, the volume of traffic to the site would remain virtually unchanged. Based on a field test involving a website for automotive information in the US, this column argues that money spent on search engine marketing by smaller brands may be more effective than previously documented. Only about half of the traffic normally flowing through branded search ads still flowed to the site when it relied only on organic search links.

Benjamin Villena-Roldán, Stefano Banfi, 17 February 2018

Researchers often pick a random or a directed search model based on convenience and theoretical implications, but distinguishing between the two is important as many labour market regulations may be welfare-improving under random search, but not under directed search. This column uses data from Chile to show that job-seekers respond to information posted by employers, suggesting that policy design should consider the prescriptions of directed search models.  However, the evidence also shows that relevant features of these markets are not well captured by existing models.

Olivier Sterck, Max Roser, Mthuli Ncube, Stefan Thewissen, 16 February 2018

Large multilateral organisations like WHO and the UN rely heavily on average income data in determining eligibility for, and the allocation of, development assistance for health. This column tests this paradigm by analysing the determinants of health outcomes for 99 countries. A country’s epidemiological surroundings, poverty gap, and institutional capacity appear to be much better predictors of health outcomes than gross national income. These findings suggest alternative metrics that could be leveraged in allocating development assistance for health.

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