Luisa Kinzius, Alexander Sandkamp, Erdal Yalcin, 16 September 2019

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the president of the US, the world has observed an unprecedented rise in border tariffs. This column shows that trade protection had in fact started much earlier, in the form of non-tariff barriers. An empirical analysis reveals that the average trade dampening effect of such barriers is comparable to that of trade defence instruments such as anti-dumping duties. However, this negative effect can be mitigated by free trade agreements.

Guo Xu, Hans-Joachim Voth, 16 September 2019

People in power may use their discretion to hire and promote family members and others in their network. While some empirical evidence shows that such patronage is bad, its theoretical effects are ambiguous – discretion over appointments can be used for good or bad. This column examines the battle performance of British Royal Navy officers during the Age of Sail and finds that patronage ‘worked’. On average, officers with connections to the top of the naval hierarchy did better on every possible measure of performance than those without a family connection. Where top administrators have internalised meritocratic values and competition punishes underperformance, patronage may enhance overall performance by selecting better individuals.

Santiago Pérez, 15 September 2019

The US and Argentina were the two most common destinations for Italian migrants in the early 20th century. But their experiences as immigrants in each country differed widely. Italians in Argentina became homeowners and were less likely to be employed as unskilled labourers than they were in the US, where they had uncommonly low family incomes and rates of home ownership. This column examines the source of these differences and seeks to understand why so many Italians chose to settle in a country that offered them limited prospects for upward mobility.

Philipp Ager, Katherine Eriksson, Casper Worm Hansen, Lars Lønstrup, 15 September 2019

Recent research has demonstrated that the location of economic activity is not uniquely determined by locational fundamentals and multiple steady states do exist. One important question in this context is under what circumstances a large enough historical shock can change the spatial distribution of economic activity. This column uses the example of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to demonstrate that high geographic mobility is one of the reasons why a temporary but large shock can influence the evolution of relative city sizes even in the longer run. 

Yasmine Bekkouche, Julia Cagé, 14 September 2019

There is growing concern that money has corrupted politics. The column uses data from French elections since 1993 to show that an increase in spending per voter has consistently increased a candidate’s vote share. Caps on spending may increase this impact, as marginal effects are large. The price of a vote varies widely, and is most expensive for the extreme right. 

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