July 2018

Brunnermeier, Abadi, 16 July 2018, 930 reads

Cryptocurrencies and the underlying distributed ledger technology have exploded into public consciousness over the last few years, with devotees insisting that the technology will revolutionise financial transactions and ownership data. This column identifies a ‘blockchain trilemma’ whereby no ledger can fully satisfy the three desirable properties of decentralisation, correctness, and cost-efficiency. It further explains how distributed ledgers enhance competition but introduce costs above and beyond the well-known electricity costs.

Johnson, 16 July 2018, 743 reads

Blockchain technology has the potential to be a catalyst for change to incumbent financial sector firms. In this Vox Talk, Tim Phillips talks to Simon Johnson, one of the authors of the latest Geneva Report on the World Economy which looks at the technology and its possible applications. 

Schumacher, Trebesch, Enderlein, 16 July 2018, 1909 reads

For centuries, sovereign debt was assumed to be ‘above the law’ and non-enforceable. This column shows that this is no longer the case. Building on a new dataset on sovereign debt lawsuits, it documents the erosion of sovereign immunity since the 1970s and argues that legal disputes can disrupt government access to international capital markets, as foreign courts impose a financial embargo on defaulting sovereigns. These legal developments have strengthened the hands of creditors and raised the cost of default for debtors, with far-reaching consequences for government willingness to pay and the resolution of debt crises.

Tabellini, 16 July 2018, 1569 reads

A key question in the debate on the reform of the euro area concerns the right mix between risk sharing and market discipline. This column, part of the VoxEU debate on the topic, argues that proposals to enhance market discipline in the euro area are counter-productive, because they increase the vulnerabilities of countries with high legacy debts. 

Casey, Crane, Gensler, Johnson, Narula, 16 July 2018, 1187 reads

The idea of a new software system that powers a consensus-driven form of shared record keeping has already had a profound effect, encouraging rapid and substantial investment in what is now commonly referred to as blockchain technology. This column introduces the latest Geneva Report on the World Economy, which assesses the available evidence and likely impact for this technology across a wide range of applications and explores the potential use cases for the financial sector, and the ways in which the organisation of these activities may change over time.

Cahuc, Kramarz, Nevoux, 16 July 2018, 1434 reads

Short-time work programmes aim to preserve jobs at firms that are experiencing temporarily low revenues, for example during a recession. This column assesses how the short-time work programme implemented in France during the Great Recession affected employment. Results confirm that the programme saved jobs and increased hours worked, and that participating firms recovered faster than non-participating firms. 

Simeonova, Akee, Holbein, Copeland, Costello, 15 July 2018, 1923 reads

Political scientists have shown conclusively, at least in the US, that richer people vote more, which has troubling implications. Using data from a government cash transfer programme, this column shows that children who grew up in households in the bottom half of the income distribution that received extra income were more likely to vote as adults compared to their counterparts who did not receive the transfers. The results suggest that efforts to reduce income inequality may have the unexpected side effect of reducing gaps in civic participation.

Laget, Osnago, Rocha, Ruta, 14 July 2018, 3314 reads

The making and unmaking of trade agreements affects global production. This column reveals how deeper agreements have boosted countries’ participation in global value chains and helped them integrate in industries with higher levels of value added. Investment and competition now drive global value chain participation in North-South relationships, while removing traditional barriers remains important for South-South relationships.

Buti, Chabin, Döhring, Leal, 13 July 2018, 2725 reads

Next week, after ten days of swift, flat riding, the Tour de France reaches the Alps. The European economy, meanwhile, has been pedalling uphill since the beginning of this year. 2017 was easy riding as strong global growth boosted domestic investment, but economic growth has had to move into lower gear in the first half of 2018 as this transmission is no longer working properly, and escalating trade conflicts could derail it. This column presents the European Commission’s Summer 2018 Interim Forecast, which suggests that a tightening of global financial conditions could add to the headwinds, though central banks' balance sheets will remain large for a long time, and domestic fundamentals in the euro area remain strong. 

Iammarino, Rodríguez-Pose, Storper, 13 July 2018, 4653 reads

Regional economic divergence has become a threat to economic progress, social cohesion, and political stability in Europe. Market processes and policies that are supposed to spread prosperity and opportunity are no longer sufficiently effective. This column argues that a different approach to economic development is required – one that would strengthen Europe’s strongest regions, but with new methods and instruments to unleash the economic potential of weaker cities and regions. The approach should be adaptable to the specific characteristics, structures, and challenges faced by different groups of cities and regions. 

Decker, Haltiwanger, Jarmin, Miranda, 12 July 2018, 4847 reads

Job reallocation is an important determinant of productivity. This column uses US data to show that a decline in the degree of job reallocation in response to shocks is behind the overall fall in the rate of reallocation over the past decades. Weakening responsiveness became a drag on aggregate productivity for high-tech businesses in the 2000s, but in other sectors the problem dates back to the 1980s. 

Kleven, Landais, Egholt Søgaard, 12 July 2018, 3042 reads

Despite considerable convergence over time, substantial gender inequality persists in all countries. Using Danish data, this column argues that this gap persists because the effects of having children on the careers of women relative to men are large and have not fallen over time. Additional findings suggest this effect may be related to inherited gender identity norms.

Ahmed, Bussolo, Cruz, Go, Osorio Rodarte, 11 July 2018, 4297 reads

Average education levels are increasing in developing countries, but not in high-income countries. The column argues that this 'education wave' in developing countries will reduce global inequality by 2030, with average incomes up to the 90th percentile all benefitting from the trend. However, this equalising effect relies on continued globalisation.

Gerlach, Stuart, 11 July 2018, 5899 reads

Many market commentators are worried that the gradual flattening of the US term structure in recent months is indicative of an increased risk of a recession. This column argues that the term structure contained information about the likelihood of a future recession even before the establishment of the Federal Reserve, suggesting that the information content does not arise solely as a consequence of countercyclical monetary policy.

Bénassy-Quéré, Brunnermeier, Enderlein, Farhi, Fratzscher, Fuest, Gourinchas, Martin, Pisani-Ferry, Rey, Schnabel, Véron, Weder di Mauro, Zettelmeyer, 10 July 2018, 4147 reads

EU leaders addressed euro area reform at the Euro Summit on 29 June. In this column, which we add to the VoxEU debate on euro area reform, the group of 14 French and German economists behind the recent CEPR Policy Insight on the topic argue that the summit statement represents a constructive first step and crosses red lines that were considered taboos only a few months ago. However, the summit’s commitments still fall short of a comprehensive package.

Lincoln, McCallum, 10 July 2018, 3815 reads

The number of US firms that export increased dramatically over the past few decades. This column argues that while foreign market entry costs have been stable over time, declines in telecommunications costs, free trade agreements, and economic growth abroad have been vital drivers of the globalisation of US firms.

Tsyvinski, Werquin, 09 July 2018, 3426 reads

Many economic disruptions create winners and losers. This column presents an analytical formula for tax reform to offset welfare losses by redistributing the winners’ gains when tax instruments are distortionary and wages are endogenous. It shows how the model can be applied to empirical data, for example to offset the impact of robots in the US and Germany.

Chen, Novy, 09 July 2018, 4161 reads

Currency unions usually go hand in hand with deeper economic integration. But does that automatically mean more international trade? This column shows that since the end of WWII, currency unions have on average been associated with 40% more trade between member countries. The ‘thin’ relationships between countries who do not trade much with each other benefit the most from currency unions, with little in the way of a boost for more established trading relationships. 

Simeonova, Currie, Nilsson, Walker, 08 July 2018, 3066 reads

Traffic congestion is a major problem for urban centres. Among various negative externalities, traffic creates substantial pollution which can impact the health of residents. This column explores how the implementation of a congestion pricing zone affected the health of children in Stockholm. The programme saw short-term reductions in common traffic pollutants and an accompanying decrease in children’s hospital visits for acute asthma. This decrease grew larger the longer the tax was in place. 

Razin, Sadka, 08 July 2018, 4591 reads

Financial globalisation triggers tax competition among countries and the possibility of a ‘race to the bottom'. This can chip away at the domestic tax base, and the reallocation of international capital is likely to result in the downscaling of the scope and size of redistribution under the welfare state. This column argues, however, that even a reduced welfare state can still act as a device to compensate the losers from financial globalisation losers in a Pareto-improving way. 

Bertasiute, Massaro, Weber, 07 July 2018, 3773 reads

A key critique of commonly used macroeconomic models is their reliance on the assumption of rational expectations. This column addresses this concern with a model of currency unions wherein expectations are formed through behavioural reinforcement learning, that is, learning from past mistakes. The model suggests that economic integration is of crucial importance to the functioning of a currency union. Monetary policy, in contrast, can only play a limited stabilising role.

Lin, Lincoln, 06 July 2018, 4156 reads

Disagreements over intellectual property rights policies have been a major roadblock in recent trade agreement talks, and the issue has also been a pillar of critiques of globalisation. This column discusses new research that matches confidential, comprehensive data on firm patenting and trade behaviour for the first time. It shows that, all else equal, firms who hold patents in the US are significantly more likely to export to countries that better protect intellectual property rights.

Weder di Mauro, 06 July 2018, 2404 reads

Central banks are concerned about the impact of cryptocurrencies. In this Vox Talk, Tim Phillips talks to Beatrice Weder di Mauro about the sources of this concern, and whether the disappearance of cash and a desire to escape the zero lower bound will lead to central banks issuing their own digital currencies.   

Marchesi, Masi, 06 July 2018, 3224 reads

Euro area governments have just negotiated a debt relief agreement for Greece, but without face-value debt reduction. This column argues that specific characteristics of sovereign debt renegotiations have significant economic implications. When debt relief operations involve write-offs, the defaulting country benefits strongly in term of growth up to ten years after the restructuring. 

Cong, He, 05 July 2018, 4988 reads

Blockchain technology provides decentralised consensus, which potentially enlarges the contracting space using tamper-proof smart contracts. But this implies distributed information. The column argues that there is a tension between these two features of blockchain. While complete contracts may increase competition, distributed information may also make collusion between incumbents more effective. 

Levinson, 05 July 2018, 4740 reads

When it comes to solving externalities like pollution, efficiency standards are more popular than taxes. The rationale behind this is that the burden of taxes would fall disproportionately on the poor. This column argues that standards are in fact more regressive than taxes. Given their lower cost, the results suggest that tax solutions should be favoured over efficiency standards. 

Bussière, Chinn, Ferrara, Heipertz, 05 July 2018, 4883 reads

The ‘Fama puzzle’ is the finding that ex post depreciation and interest differentials are negatively correlated, contrary to what theory suggests. This column re-examines the puzzle for eight advanced country exchange rates against the US dollar, over the period up to February 2016. The rejection of the joint hypothesis of uncovered interest parity and rational expectations still occurs, but with much less frequency. In contrast to earlier findings, the Fama regression coefficient is positive and large in the period after the Global Crisis, but survey-based measures of exchange rate expectations reveal greater evidence in favour of uncovered interest parity.

Aum, Lee, Shin, 04 July 2018, 6350 reads

The past three decades have seen unprecedented technological development, with major impacts on labour markets and the economy as a whole. This column investigates how automation and the increased use of computers has affected productivity trends over the last three decades. Results suggest that automation has had a strong effect on slowing down aggregate productivity, despite raising it at the micro level. This is due to the reallocation of factor inputs across occupations and industries. 

Alfaro, García Santana, Moral-Benito, 04 July 2018, 3688 reads

Propagation through buyer-seller interactions may amplify the aggregate impact of bank lending shocks on real activity. This column presents insights from estimating the direct and indirect effects of exogenous credit supply shocks in Spain between 2002 and 2013. Both direct and indirect effects of bank credit shocks had sizable effects on investment and output throughout the period. Trade credit extended by suppliers and price adjustments both appear to explain downstream propagation of financial shocks.

McLeay, Tenreyro, 03 July 2018, 7429 reads

The Phillips curve – a positive relationship between inflation and economic slack – is one of the building blocks of the standard macroeconomic models used for forecasting and policy advice in central banks. On the face of it, recent findings of a breakdown in this relationship would therefore have major implications for monetary policy. This column argues that these findings are perfectly consistent with a stable underlying Phillips curve. The reason is simple: monetary policy will typically seek to reduce output whenever inflation is set to rise above target, blurring the identification of the Phillips curve in the data.

Narayan, Van der Weide, 02 July 2018, 7419 reads

Intergenerational mobility is important for both fairness and economic efficiency in a society. This column uses data from a new global study spanning five decades to show that average relative mobility is lower in developing economies, with no sign that the gap with developed countries is getting smaller. In addition, income mobility in several developing economies is much lower than their levels of educational mobility would lead us to expect. Labour market deficiencies appear to be contributing to this gap between mobility in education and income. 

Akcigit, Ates, Impullitti, 02 July 2018, 4851 reads

The optimal set of industrial policies to tackle increased competition from global technological rivals is once again the centre of a heated debate, with protectionist policies now gaining traction. Drawing on US experience three decades ago, this column examines the effects of import tariffs and R&D subsidies on domestic firms’ global competitiveness, aggregate growth, and welfare. It argues that import tariffs generate large dynamic productivity losses and may enhance welfare only for a short time horizon and when trading partners do not retaliate. By contrast, R&D subsidies stimulate domestic innovation and increase welfare, especially over longer time horizons, without jeopardising the gains from trade. 

Koijen, Van Nieuwerburgh, 01 July 2018, 3591 reads

Over the past decade, exciting breakthroughs in the field of immuno-oncology have resulted in significant gains in long-term cancer survival, but the cost of immunotherapy is often extremely high. This column argues that life insurance would become a more valuable product to consumers if it were to pay for life-enhancing medical treatment in case of a cancer diagnosis. Widespread adoption of this funding model would increase life expectancy in the population, which would in turn lower the cost of life insurance.

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