Han Wang, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 16 December 2021

Variation in the incidence of pandemics among cities has often been attributed to luck, rather than to institutional factors. This column examines how the Black Death – the deadliest of pandemics – differently impacted European cities in the 14th century. City autonomy, which allowed the independent introduction of counter-measures, reduced the plague’s death toll, on average, by almost 10%. Being a capital city, hosting a parliament, or having a bishop or an archbishop did not produce similar benefits. Improving the quality of local institutions can be an efficient mechanism to fight pandemics, even today. 

Katie Parry, Oriana Bandiera, Michael Best, Adnan Khan, Andrea Prat, 13 May 2020

Weak procurement systems can lead to high wastefulness and reduce the amount of resources government have for vital expenditures. This column examines the behaviour of 600 procurement officers in Pakistan and finds that the savings realised through giving them greater autonomy were considerably greater than from pay-for-performance incentive schemes, though this result did depend on the relative efficiency of the procurement officers and their monitors. This finding indicates that, counter-intuitively, the appropriate response to inefficiency and corruption may sometimes be less monitoring, not more.

Bernhard Dachs, Georg Zahradnik, 06 July 2014

The Global Crisis brought a halt to three decades of R&D internationalisation, in which foreign firms’ share of total R&D expenditure had increased in almost all countries where data is available. However, this column argues that the crisis did not lead to a new global distribution of overseas R&D expenditure, despite the erosion of the EU’s share. The persistence of R&D expenditure is attributed to the costs of relocating R&D and to the autonomy of foreign subsidiaries.


CEPR Policy Research