October 2018

Gersbach, 31 October 2018

There has been an intense academic and policy debate on what monetary architecture is the most appropriate recently, but many issues are still unresolved. This column looks at the circumstances under which the current system and the sovereign money system yield the same outcomes, the core arguments in favour of the current system, and what advantages a sovereign money architecture might offer.

Saadon, Sussman, 31 October 2018

Global integration has increased rapidly over recent decades, leaving basic theories of exchange rate equilibrium ripe for reconsideration. This column tests two such theories – purchasing power parity and uncovered interest rate parity – using the case of the advanced, small open economy of Israel and the US. The results show that when the necessary conditions are met, the purchasing power parity and uncovered interest rate parity relationships continue to hold in the short run. 

Bown, 30 October 2018

President Trump’s protectionism has a distinctive focus on disrupting US access to global supply chains. This column reveals that the major economies had in fact begun to impose additional trade protection on intermediate inputs even prior to 2016. New barriers targeting cross-border supply chains simply arose through policies aside from headline tariffs. Some of this new protection has also already spread beyond China’s trade and begun to cover exports from other countries. These results, combined with more recent policy actions, widen the possibility of a negative protectionist impact on the global sourcing of parts and components.

Dwenger, Treber, 30 October 2018

Many tax authorities use public shaming as a penalty for tax non-compliance. Yet, we lack empirical evidence on how the introduction of naming and shaming affects behaviour. This column uses a new policy in Slovenia to argue that shaming is an effective tool for tax enforcement, reducing tax debt by about 8.5%.

Hartmann, McAdam, 29 October 2018

The origins and implications of the low inflation dynamics that characterised the post-crisis recoveries in many advanced economies were at the heart of the ECB’s 2018 Sintra Forum on Central Banking. In this column, two of the organisers highlight some of the main points from the discussions, including why measured economic slack did not translate into more vivid price and wage growth, which role inflation expectations play in the conduct of monetary policy, as well as where the challenges lie in reconciling changes in micro price-setting with aggregate inflation dynamics.

Ameriks, Briggs, Caplin, Lee, Shapiro, Tonetti, 29 October 2018

As countries such as the US face increasingly ageing populations, policymakers face the question of whether to encourage workers to work beyond historical retirement age. Using strategic survey questions, this column gauges whether older Americans stop working due to their lack of interest in working longer or due to lack of opportunity, and finds that it may be the latter. The revealed strong willingness to work implies that job opportunities with flexible schedules are hard for older Americans to find. 

Bologna, Miglietta, Segura, 29 October 2018

Proponents of contingent convertible bonds, or CoCos, argue that they are effective instruments for bank recapitalisation. Sceptics argue that they introduce too much complexity, with potentially destabilising consequences. This column addresses this dispute empirically, using the dynamics of the CoCo market in 2016. The CoCo market at the time exhibited adverse dynamics that can’t be explained by banks’ fundamentals. Though some of this instability may have been transitory, the findings imply that the market should be monitored as it develops.

Ramelli, Wagner, Zeckhauser, Ziegler, 29 October 2018

President Trump’s election and the nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency changed expectations of US climate change policy. This column uses movements in US stock prices to show that firms with high carbon intensity benefited, as expected, but so did firms with ‘responsible’ strategies on climate change. A significant group of investors raise the value of firms taking a long-term perspective. 

Harris, Gerstenblüth, Triunfo, 28 October 2018

The Surgeon General of the United States concluded in 1988 that the nicotine in cigarette smoke is an addictive drug. This column reports on an experiment which revealed that smokers, when confronted with warnings that were repugnant and threatening to many of them, could still make choices consistent with the widely accepted standard rules of rational choice. The model of the two-self economic man offers one explanation for how the participants could engage in such apparently rational behaviour in the face of their addiction.

Cottier, Flückiger, Kempeneers, Lalive, 27 October 2018

In contrast to other labour market interventions, job search assistance appears to be effective in helping job seekers to find jobs. This column examines the effects of such a programme targeting the long-term unemployed in Geneva. Those participating in the programme experience a short-term increase in employment compared to other job seekers, but this gain evaporates in the second year after assignment. These results suggest that the programme places job seekers in lower-quality jobs.

Almenberg, Lusardi, Säve-Söderbergh, Vestman, 27 October 2018

Household indebtedness is high in many countries, and continues to rise. This column uses data from Sweden to argue that evolving attitudes toward debt may help explain the observed increase. Individuals who report being comfortable with debt have considerably more of it, and they are more likely to have parents who were also comfortable with debt. For others, discomfort with debt may act as a self-imposed borrowing constraint. 

Brazier, 26 October 2018

Thanks to transformative post-crisis reforms, the financial system is safer and simpler than it was a decade ago. But the structure of the system continues to evolve, partly in reaction to those reforms. Economies are now more reliant on market-based finance. This column argues that to deliver the macroprudential objective of a system that is able to serve households and businesses in bad times as well as good, policymakers must run stress simulations on systemic markets as well as systemic banks, and take pre-emptive corrective action where necessary.

Kerr, 26 October 2018

The US has held a very special place in terms of absorbing global talent. This column brings together various data sources to demonstrate how high-skilled immigration has transformed US innovation over the past five decades. Among the trends identified are rates of international migration rising by skill level, a huge share of skilled immigration going to the US, and a disproportionate immigration impact on the US at higher skill levels. Not surprisingly, these changes have had enormous economic impact.

Heinemann, Weiss, 26 October 2018

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy for the decade ahead is beginning to take shape. This column argues that, as it stands, the policy fails to ensure public goods provision for the EU at large, and the lack of clarity on its payment terms are a concession to pressure from farmers’ lobbies. Without significant changes in the final stages of negotiation, the CAP could become an enormous waste of resources while providing little or no ‘European added value’.

Hau, Ouyang, 26 October 2018

In the new century, China’s large economy features many local real estate booms originating in insufficient land supply. Using a panel of 900,000 Chinese manufacturing firm-year observations with matched firm locations, this column quantifies the causal effects of local real estate booms on local firms. It demonstrates how the diversion of local savings into the real estate sector in cities with real estate booms exerts a large toll on other local industries through higher costs of capital, underinvestment, real wage decreases, and industrial decline.

Beetsma, Thygesen, Cugnasca, Orseau, Eliofotou, Santacroce, 26 October 2018

Reforming the EU’s rules is particularly important at the present juncture – governments must take advantage of the current environment to prepare for the next crisis. This column, part of the Vox debate on euro area reform, outlines the European Fiscal Board’s proposals for a major overhaul of the EU fiscal framework, which it argues would result in a simpler and more transparent framework thanks to the use of a single budgetary anchor and a single observable operational target.

Machin, 26 October 2018

We know that increasing the school leaving age cuts crime, but why? Is it because kids who are most likely to commit crimes are learning things that make them more employable, or is just because they're off the streets? Tim Phillips talks to Steve Machin of the LSE about new research into the importance of these effects.

Afzal, d’Adda, Fafchamps, Said, 25 October 2018

Within households, an individual often makes consumption decisions for the collective. Leading intra-household decision making models predict efficiency based on perfect information about individuals’ preferences and benevolence. This column challenges these models by incorporating information asymmetry and demand for agency. Experimental evidence from Pakistan shows that household consumption decisions are shaped by a demand for agency, and that this is mediated by level of empowerment. 

Ferracane, Kren, van der Marel, 25 October 2018

Countries are increasingly imposing new data policies which restrict both the domestic use of data and the flow of data across borders. This column uses an index of data policy restrictiveness for 64 major economies to demonstrate that restrictions that apply to the cross-border movement of data have an inhibiting effect on trade in services and, to a lesser extent, on the productivity of local companies and industries. Policies targeting the use of data, on the other hand, are found to have a comparably larger effect on productivity.

Goldin, Nabarro, 24 October 2018

Anti-migration sentiment has been rising across Europe. This column shows that the economic impact of migration is positive, but depends almost entirely on the policies implemented to ensure that migrants can be productive and the extent to which the positive economic consequences of migration are distributed across individuals. Unless the rhetoric of a perceived cultural and economic threat posed by migrants is countered effectively, economies stand to lose out substantially from the implementation of anti-immigration policies.

Keiser, Shapiro, 24 October 2018

Many argue that the $1 trillion cost of the 1972 US Clean Water Act outweigh its benefits. The column uses new evidence on grants and water pollution readings to measure its impact. While the Act has decreased US water pollution, the estimated change in home values caused by this has been only one quarter of the grant costs, although this probably understates the full impact of the Act. The analysis suggests that targeting water pollution in more populous areas would improve net social benefits.

Delatte, 23 October 2018

The agenda to fix the euro is hampered by conflicting national interests. Creditor countries demand fiscal house cleaning and debtor countries ask for risk sharing. There is currently a political deadlock about how the adjustment burden should be distributed, perpetuating a state of vulnerability that is not in the collective interest of euro area members. This column, part of the Vox debate on euro area reform, argues that overcoming this coordination failure requires reforming the political governance of the EU, rather than just its economic governance.

Shirai, 23 October 2018

Among the possible options for an alternative monetary policy framework to achieve price stability more firmly in the low neutral interest rate environment are nominal GDP targeting and nominal wage targeting. This column, the second in a two-part series focusing on Japan, argues that while nominal GDP and nominal wage targeting might be easier for the public to understand than an inflation target, nominal GDP targeting appears to have limited impact and nominal wage targeting may be difficult to implement anytime soon in Japan due to uncertainty over labour productivity growth and the complicated wage-setting structure.

Cohen, Loungani, 23 October 2018

At first glance, emissions and economic activity appear to be positively linked. This column refutes this by re-examining emissions and real GDP data using trend/cycle decompositions. The evidence clearly demonstrates decoupling of emissions and real GDP in many richer nations. Furthermore, although decoupling does not yet appear in emerging markets, data from China show that trend elasticities initially increase with per capita real GDP but then decline, thus holding out the hope that the relationship between emissions and GDP growth will weaken as emerging market countries get richer.

Biancotti, Ciocca, 23 October 2018

Calls for regulation of big tech are getting louder and louder. This column argues that policy proposals should be evaluated through the lens of their impact on the evolution of artificial intelligence. It proposes a holistic framework that encompasses consumer control over data, competition in product markets, incentives to innovation, and implications for international trade. It also highlights the role played by major big tech companies, and the threat of data and artificial intelligence monopolisation.

Shirai, 22 October 2018

The search for a better monetary policy framework is becoming one of the main topics among central banks. This column, the first in a two-part series, looks at two options in the context of Japan: raising the inflation target and price-level targeting. Adopting a higher inflation target seems politically difficult, while reaching the desired price level path is challenging due to the limited effectiveness of the current monetary easing tools for generating inflation. Instead, the Bank of Japan should introduce flexibility in interpreting the 2% price stability target.

Bento, Restuccia, 22 October 2018

One way to adjudicate among existing productivity theories for why productivity varies across countries is to examine differences in average establishment size. Using new data covering firms in both manufacturing and services in 127 countries, this column shows that average establishment size increases with the level of development across countries, but the ratio of size between manufacturing and services does not vary systematically with income per capita. Misallocation is therefore an important driver of establishment size and aggregate productivity differences between rich and poor countries.

Dustmann, Fitzenberger, Zimmermann, 22 October 2018

There is a lot of concern about the rise in housing costs in many developed countries and the impact it has on living conditions and inequality. Yet, to date little evidence exists on how changes in housing costs affect the distribution of disposable income. This column draws on recent research for Germany to show that shifts in housing costs severely exacerbated the rise in income inequality net of housing expenditures, and discusses the reasons behind this and implications for inequality.

Cieslak, Schrimpf, 22 October 2018

Central bank communication affects asset prices and therefore the broader economy, but the channels through which this happens are not clear. The column proposes a novel approach to distinguishing the types of news. In more than half of communication events, the non-monetary component dominates the market reaction to central bank communication.

Redding, 22 October 2018

What accounts for London's explosive growth in the 19th and early 20th centuries? Tim Phillips talks to Stephen Redding of Princeton University about new research that shows how important the railways have been, and continue to be, in creating the modern metropolis.

Choi, Robertson, 21 October 2018

Economists typically try to infer investors’ motives and beliefs by observing prices, quantities, and choices, but the lack of randomised experiments makes drawing convincing conclusions difficult. This column presents the findings from a different approach – directly asking investors about their motives and beliefs. Rather than a small number of dominant factors, it finds substantial support for many of the leading theories of what drives portfolio equity shares.

Jacks, Tang, 21 October 2018

Foreign goods and workers are regularly blamed when the national economy is performing poorly. Economic theory suggests that trade and migration are substitutes – one can import cheaper products from a trade partner, or one can import the foreign workers themselves to narrow the difference in international factor prices. Yet, empirically this is not obvious. Based on available long-run data for international trade and migration since the late 19th century for the US and Canada, this column finds that during the interwar period, trade and immigration did in fact appear to be substitutes.

Valencia Caicedo, 20 October 2018

Though volumes have been written about Jesuit Missions in South America, very little is known about their long-term economic legacy. Using a novel dataset, this column argues that the 17th century Guarani Jesuit Missions had long-lasting positive effects on education and income. It also suggests cultural and occupational mechanisms that might be driving the persistent effects observed. 

Grabar, Sonin, 20 October 2018

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, which aim to “introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances”, have attracted significant criticism, with claims that their effect on competitive balance is uncertain and that they will deprive new clubs of a chance to take off. This column provides a theoretical argument to show that regulations such as salary caps or Financial Fair Play improve investors' incentives to bring money to clubs other than those in the top financial tier, helping to level the playing field.

de Pleijt, Nuvolari, Weisdorf, 20 October 2018

While technological progress has typically been seen as increasing the demand for skilled workers since the beginning of the 20th century,  technological change has historically been associated with ‘de-skilling’. This column explores how the advent of the steam engine affected human capital formation in industrialising England. More steam engines per person are found to be associated with lower shares of unskilled workers. The results run contrary to the workshop-to-factory argument of skilled workers’ downward mobility, pointing instead to a farm work-to-factory transition. 

Gillingham, 19 October 2018

William Nordhaus of Yale University has been jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with Paul Romer for ‘integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis’. This column, written by a co-author and Yale colleague, outlines how his contributions have broadened the scope of economic analysis, shedding light on the causes and consequences of the unintended effects of human activity on the long-run trajectory of economic growth and wellbeing.

Ordoñez, Piguillem, 19 October 2018

As life expectancy has increased, so has the need for retirement savings. New financial instruments have been important in meeting the increasing demand for safe assets. This column shows that shadow banking has played a crucial role in meeting the higher demand for insurance by lowering the financial sector’s liquidity costs. Despite its role in the Great Recession, shadow banking has done more good than harm.

Broner, Clancy, Erce, Martin, 19 October 2018

Fiscal expansions may crowd out the private sector by detracting from consumption and investment. This column argues that this effect is likely to be stronger when fiscal expansions are financed by selling public debt to domestic residents rather than to foreigners, and shows this to be the case for both the US and a panel of OECD countries. The findings suggest that the effects of fiscal expansions in a globalised world depend crucially on how they are financed.

Rossi-Hansberg, Sarte, Trachter, 19 October 2018

Recent literature has documented increasing US product-market concentration at the national level. This column argues that when measured at the more relevant local level, concentration has actually decreased over the last 25 years on average and in all major sectors. In the many industries with diverging national and local trends, top firms are bringing down local concentration even as they increase national concentration. These findings support the idea that top firms expand their national market share by opening establishments in new locations, thereby increasing local competition. 

Bhamra, Uppal, 18 October 2018

Most households do not diversify but instead invest in only a handful of stocks, typically ones with which they are familiar. Using a new framework for evaluating the welfare losses from this underdiversification, this column argues that when the effect of familiarity biases on a household’s decision to allocate wealth between risky and safe assets and on its consumption-savings decisions are taken into account, the welfare loss is amplified by a factor of four. The impact on household and social welfare of financial policies through innovation, education, and regulation could thus be substantial.

Borio, Disyatat, Juselius, Rungcharoenkitkul, 18 October 2018

Has the decline in real (inflation-adjusted) interest rates over the last 30 years been driven by variations in desired saving and investment, as commonly presumed? And is this a useful way of thinking about the determination of real interest rates more generally, at least over long horizons? This column finds that this is not the case by systematically examining the relationship between several saving-investment drivers and market real interest rates (as well as estimates of natural rates) since the 1870s and for 19 countries. By contrast, a clear and robust role for monetary policy regimes emerges. The analysis has significant implications for the notion of monetary neutrality and policymaking.

Leombroni, Vedolin, Venter, Whelan, 18 October 2018

It has been argued that central bank announcements can simultaneously convey both optimism and pessimism. This column explores the issue by looking at the effects of ECB communications on euro area bond yields. It finds direct evidence that monetary policy not only affects long-term rates through expectations of future short-term rates, but also by influencing the risk premia investors need in order to hold long-term bonds. 

Baldwin, 17 October 2018

The WTO is in a funk – unable to conclude the Doha Round even as its members liberalise unilaterally and regionally. This column, first published in June 2010, introduces a Policy Insight arguing that the tactics used to conclude the last round pushed the organisation into decision-making’s “impossible trinity” (consensus, uniform rules, and strict enforcement). The Doha Round may succeed – defeating the triangle with the 'big package' tactic – but this tactic does not work fast enough to allow the WTO to confront 21st century challenges in a timely manner. At least one of the impossible triangle’s corners will have to be modified.

Abraham, Kearney, 17 October 2018

The employment rate among non-elderly adults in the US remains low by historical standards and in comparison with other rich countries. This column reviews the evidence on the main causes of the secular decline in employment since the turn of the century. Labour demand factors – notably import competition from China and the rise of industrial robots – emerge as the key drivers. Some labour supply and institutional factors also have contributed to the decline, but to a lesser extent.

Busch, Domeij, Guvenen, Madera, 17 October 2018

Workers experience income volatility over their lifetime due to changes in both individual and macroeconomic conditions. Using panel data from the US, Germany, and Sweden, this column analyses how the probability of income losses and gains changes systematically over the business cycle. Downside risk increases in recessions, while upside chance is reduced. However, tax and transfer programmes blunt some of the largest declines in incomes in recessions.

Konings, Lecocq, Merlevede, 17 October 2018

Many countries have reduced their corporate income tax rates or introduced tax deductions, exclusions, and credits to attract foreign direct investment. This column discusses the introduction of the Notional Interest Deduction in Belgium, which allows companies to deduct from their taxable income an interest that is calculated based on the company’s equity. The deduction has increased employment in Belgian affiliates of multinational enterprises by between 6% and 8%.

Shirai, 16 October 2018

The Bank of Japan has bought massive quantities of Japanese stocks in a bid to increase aggregate demand and inflation, and to encourage Japanese savers to take on more risk. This column surveys the effectiveness of this quantitative easing programme and identifies several key issues, including stock prices not rising in proportion to profits, the overvaluation of some small-cap stocks, and adverse impacts on corporate governance. It argues that before taking any steps toward monetary policy normalisation, the Bank of Japan should introduce flexibility in interpreting the 2% price stability target.

Akcigit, Grigsby, Nicholas, Stantcheva, 16 October 2018

Understanding how taxation influences innovation is of central importance to create investment incentives for R&D, yet our knowledge remains limited due to a lack of data, especially covering a long period of time. This column uses newly constructed datasets from the 20th century to examine the effects of both personal and corporate income taxation on inventors, as well as on firms that do R&D. It finds consistently negative effects of high taxes on innovation over time as well as on individual inventors and firms. 

Calì, 16 October 2018

The US-China trade war has rapidly escalated, promising to disrupt trade flows between the two countries and beyond. This column provides the first estimates of trade and investment effects of the trade war on East Asia, one of the most exposed regions. By combining trade and tariff data, it provides some order of magnitude of the expected effects and identifies the possible winners and losers from the trade war in the region.

Nybom, Vosters, 15 October 2018

In 2014, Gregory Clark proposed a ‘simple law of mobility’ suggesting that intergenerational mobility is much lower than previously believed, and relatively uniform across countries. This column tests this law using US and Swedish data. The results show, in contrast to the simple law of mobility, no evidence of a rise in intergenerational persistence and no evidence of uniformity across countries.

Beck, Jones , Knaack, 15 October 2018

In today’s world of globalised finance, regulators in developing countries have to weigh up the international ramifications of their decisions. This column presents the results of a research project which combines cross-country panel analysis and in-depth case studies of the political economy of the adoption of Basel II/III in the developing world. It finds that regulators in developing countries do not merely adopt Basel II/III because these standards provide the optimal technical solution to financial stability risks in their jurisdictions; concerns about reputation and competition are also important. 

Homanen, 15 October 2018

Bank creditors have non-financial preferences too, and may withdraw deposits as a form of discipline. This column shows that protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline that targeted investor banks caused significant decreases in deposit growth, and global data suggest that this type of reaction to bank-specific scandals is widespread.

Aksoy, Carpenter, De Haas, Tran, 15 October 2018

Can the introduction of new legislation influence how citizens think about key social issues? This column uses the gradual rollout of same-sex relationship recognition policies throughout Europe to demonstrate how laws can shape attitudes towards sexual minorities. As marriage equality and other policies expand throughout the world we can expect to see continued improvements in attitudes towards sexual minorities in the countries involved but, conversely, anti-LGBT legislation could erode such acceptance.

Bell, Costa, Machin, 14 October 2018

Changes to compulsory school leaving laws that force some people to stay in school longer have been shown to boost education and reduce crime. This column uses changes in such laws in the US to show that the driver behind the reduction in crime is not better employment outcomes, but ‘dynamic incapacitation’. Crime rates peak at age 18, and keeping teenagers in school during this key period can help ensure that they never proceed down the wrong track.

Callison, Kaestner, Ward, 13 October 2018

Researchers have long observed substantial geographic variation in the use of health care services. This column uses data on health care use among individuals who are uninsured as they approach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare to argue that most geographic variation is the result of supply-side factors that allow providers to exercise discretion over the levels of care provided. Policies aimed at reducing these discrepancies across regions may not only ‘bend the cost curve’, but may also directly reduce health risks arising from individuals receiving ineffective or unneccesary health care services.

Heblich, Redding, Sturm, 13 October 2018

Over the last two centuries, transportation innovations have drastically changed urban landscapes. This column explores how the mid-19th century transport revolution shaped the urban agglomeration of London. The results show Greater London’s population would have been 30% lower in 1921 without the railway network. The findings and the quantitative urban models employed highlight the role of modern transport technologies in sustaining dense concentrations of economic activity.

Hamilton, 12 October 2018

Quantitative easing policies have been used widely over the past decade. This column explores how markets responded to the announcements surrounding the three phases of the Fed’s quantitative easing operations. It also discusses a basic identification problem with high-frequency event studies, namely, that they cannot resolve whether the announcement mattered because it conveyed information about monetary policy or about economic fundamentals. 

Eljas-Taal, Kay, Porsch, Svatikova, 12 October 2018

Collaborative platforms have quickly penetrated several services sectors. Statistics on the development of the collaborative economy are essential for appropriate policy responses but there are few available. This column presents a simple methodology for estimating the economic size of the collaborative economy, which is also relevant for the platform economy.

Frankel, 12 October 2018

In the US, unemployment is at its lowest point for two decades. Wage growth is rising, the economy is growing. Tim Phillips asks Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard University why he worries about the depth of the next recession.

Liu, Brynjolfsson, Dowlatabadi, 12 October 2018

Most of us have taken a taxi that increased the fare by taking the long route. The column compares matched pairs of taxi and Uber journeys in New York City to investigate how often drivers took unnecessary detours. Uber drivers were less likely to do this, suggesting that Uber's innovations in fare structure and digital feedback have reduced moral hazard.

Jones, 12 October 2018

Paul Romer of New York University has been jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with William Nordhaus ‘for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis’. This column explains his key insights and their wide-ranging implications for our understanding of the process of economic growth.

Schilling, Uhlig, 11 October 2018

The Bank for International Settlements has attributed the volatility of the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the lack of a crypto central bank. This column examines the implications of this and the increasing, but bounded, supply of Bitcoin for the cryptocurrency’s price. It also discusses how the price of Bitcoin interacts with monetary policy for traditional currencies.

Bergemann, Bonatti, 11 October 2018

The growth of social media over the past decade has brought a parallel explosion in the size and value of information markets. This column presents the findings from a comprehensive model of data trading and brokerage. The model identifies three aspects of information markets – the value of information, the nature of competition in these markets, and consumers’ incentives – which are in particular need of further research and understanding. 

Foros, Nguyen-Ones, Steen, 11 October 2018

Many markets exhibit saw-tooth pricing, with retailers regularly cutting and restoring prices. The column uses the discounting pattern of Norwegian gas stations, which uniformly raise prices on two days a week, to show the effect on consumer behaviour and firm profits. When more consumers spend effort on when to buy rather than where to buy, competition softens.

Beynet, 11 October 2018

European fiscal rules have become overly complex over time. Some consider them too lax to ensure fiscal sustainability, while others see them as too rigid to ensure adequate smoothing of economic activity in bad times. This column, part of the Vox debate on euro area reform, argues that to make the rules more effective, they should be simplified and focus on expenditure growth, while avoiding reliance on unobservable concepts such as structural fiscal balances. Increased ownership requires more flexibility and built-in positive incentives, such as allowing deviations when financed with GDP-linked bonds, which would also improve fiscal sustainability.

Bryan, 11 October 2018

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded jointly to William Nordhaus for ‘integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis’, and to Paul Romer for ‘integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis’. This column outlines their work and the connections between them. Both have at their core the longstanding problem of economic growth: why are some places and times rich and others poor, and what is the impact of these differences?

Campos, De Grauwe, Ji, 10 October 2018

The tragedy of structural reforms is that they have been captured by policymakers. This column argues that the incessant repetition of the ‘must-reform’ mantra as a solution to the crisis has discouraged academic economists from embracing it as the important research topic it clearly is, and attempts to address the lack of adequate knowledge which makes the implementation of reforms more difficult and limits their effectiveness. 

Acalin, 10 October 2018

The idea of growth-indexed bonds has recently regained momentum in policy circles, but research has shown they are unlikely to substantially decrease the risk of a debt explosion in advanced economies if not issued through a large and coordinated mechanism. This column, part of the VoxEU debate on euro area reform, proposes such a mechanism for the euro area – a European Debt Agency issuing securitised safe and risky European bonds backed by country-specific growth-indexed bonds.

Breinlich, Leromain, Novy, Sampson, Usman, 10 October 2018

How did the stock market react to the Brexit referendum of June 2016? This column shows that initial stock price movements on the day after the Leave vote were driven by fears of an economic slowdown in the UK and by a sharp devaluation of the pound. Later movements following two speeches by Theresa May in October 2016 and January 2017 were more closely correlated with potential future changes to tariffs and non-tariff barriers on UK-EU trade. This indicates that these speeches led investors to update their assessment of the likelihood of a hard Brexit.

Auer, Claessens, 09 October 2018

Cryptocurrencies are often thought to operate out of the reach of national regulation. This column argues that in fact their valuations, transaction volumes, and user bases react substantially to news about regulatory actions. Because they rely on regulated financial institutions to operate and markets are (still) segmented across jurisdictions, cryptocurrencies are within the reach of national regulation.

Anauati, Galiani, Gálvez, 09 October 2018

Economics places a strong emphasis on publishing in a narrow set of top-tier journals. However, the reputation of a journal does not necessarily go hand in hand with citation performance. This column describes how citation patterns vary greatly across tiers, affecting both the total citations articles receive and the life cycles of their citations. Nonetheless, the results suggest that too much emphasis is placed on the top five journals. 

de Soyres, Frohm, Gunnella, Pavlova, 09 October 2018

When a country’s currency depreciates, its export volumes are expected to increase. Yet some recent episodes suggest that exports now barely respond to significant exchange rate movements. This column argues that global value chains are an important part of the answer, as countries now need to import to export, and often re-import their exports. To assess the consequences of international input-output linkages on exchange rate elasticities, policymakers need indices of global value chain participation based on currencies rather than countries.

Romer, 08 October 2018

For many, corruption and political cronyism are seen as an inevitable part of Greek politics. This column argues that the same could have been said in the 1970s about Hong Kong, now a beacon of low corruption. Hong Kong managed this turnaround by appointing a non-elected governor accountable to the UK government. Greece could achieve the same by calling on the EU and start counting the benefits.

Nordhaus, 08 October 2018

President Trump’s doctrine on trade represents a radical break with previous US policy. This column, the first of two examining the Trump doctrine, argues that he embraces fallacies as facts, and that the efforts to reform tax are flawed and will make tax law more complex. If enacted, the Auerbach-Ryan Tax Plan would be a mechanism by which the US government collects taxes to benefit rich citizens at the expense of the country's trading partners.

Nordhaus, 08 October 2018

The change in the structure of global supply has important implications for US President Donald Trump as he contemplates tearing up existing international trade deals. This column argues that he risks destroying the fruits of almost 100 years of global trade cooperation, the benefits of which to citizens in the US far outweigh the costs. This spirit of cooperation is also the basis for coordinated global action on issues such as climate change.

Huber, Lindenthal, Waldinger, 08 October 2018

Trump’s travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries sparked an outcry from businesses about their ability to recruit and retain talent. This column analyses the effect of the Nazis' purge of Jewish managers from German firms to understand the economic consequences of such discriminatory policies. Results show robust losses in terms of stock prices and dividend payments of affected firms. The policy reduced the aggregate market valuation of firms listed in Berlin by 1.78% of German gross national product.

Zimmerman, 08 October 2018

Graduates of top universities hold a large share of leadership positions in big firms. At the same time, elite universities are aiming to expand access to middle- and low-income students. Yet, it is unclear whether the benefits of attending top universities accrue to students from poor backgrounds. This column examines new evidence from Chile and finds that admission to highly selective, business-focused degree programmes has very large effects on the rates at which male students from wealthy backgrounds attain top jobs and incomes, but little or no effect for female students and non-wealthy male students.

Arkolakis, Ramondo, Rodríguez-Clare, Yeaple, 08 October 2018

One consequence of the last decades of globalisation is that, thanks to multinational firms, goods are increasingly being produced far from where ideas are created. Using general equilibrium modelling, this column analyses the welfare and distributional effects of the recent wave of protectionism. Central to the results is the flexibility that multinational firms have in locating their innovation and production activities around the globe.

Ayyagari, Demirgüç-Kunt, Maksimovic, 08 October 2018

The emergence of ‘superstar’ firms that achieve vastly better returns on invested capital have led to concern that some sectors are too concentrated. The column argues that this difference in returns can be accounted for by better measurement of intangible capital. These firms may not be exercising market power in ways that harm consumers in the short run, but policymakers should ensure that markets remain contestable.

Razin, Sadka, 07 October 2018

Globalisation, in the form of trade, migration, and financial flows, typically increases income inequality. However, this column argues that the welfare state spreads the gains from trade to almost all income groups, thereby reducing inequality. In this way, the welfare state, financed by labour and capital taxes, is able to survive international tax competition brought about by financial globalisation. Immigration is one of the ways to finance the welfare state, particularly in ageing societies.

Koudijs, Salisbury, Sran, 06 October 2018

In order to protect the financial system from excessive risk-taking, many argue that bank managers need to have more personal liability. However, whether the liability of bank managers has a significant effect on risk-taking is an open question. This column studies a unique historical episode in which similar bankers, operating in similar institutional and economic environments, faced different degrees of personal liability, depending on the timing of their marriages, and finds that limited liability induced bankers to take more risks.

Card, Domnisoru, Taylor, 06 October 2018

There is wide variation in upward mobility across US states. This column uses a study of child schooling in 1940 to show that upward mobility in educational attainment is determined in part by local public education policy, with mobility greater in states with high teacher salaries, for example. This shows the potential of public education to improve equality of opportunity. 

Legroux, Rahmouni-Rousseau, Szczerbowicz, Valla, 05 October 2018

Among the tools used by central banks to tame the financial crisis, some – such as haircuts applied by the central bank to the collateral posted at its provision of central liquidity to the banking system – have gone largely unnoticed. This column introduces a liquidity mismatch index to quantify the extent to which central banks effectively supported bank liquidity. The analysis suggests that in the case of French banks, the ECB alleviated banks’ liquidity mismatch significantly between 2011 and 2015.

Cong, Li, Wang, 05 October 2018

Cryptocurrencies, tokens, and the blockchain technology upon which these platforms are built hold considerable potential for financial architectures. This column presents a dynamic asset valuation model of cryptocurrencies and tokens on blockchain-based platforms. Price dynamics in the model feature explosive growth of the user base after an initial period of dormant adoption, accompanied by a run-up of token price volatility, in line with existing evidence. The findings highlight how the value of the tokens depends on user base, the quality of the blockchain platform, and users’ expectations of future token price dynamics. 

De Haas, Popov, 05 October 2018

The environmental Kuznets hypothesis predicts that pollution will increase at early stages of development but then decline once a country surpasses a certain income level. This column examines how banks and stock markets affect the mechanisms behind this hypothesis. Industries which pollute relatively more for technological reasons generate relatively more carbon dioxide in countries with expanding credit markets, whereas stock markets have the exact opposite effect. For middle-income countries in particular, where carbon dioxide emissions may have increased linearly during the development process, stock markets could play an important role in making future growth greener.

Profeta, 05 October 2018

It's no secret that women have been under-represented in the boardroom in general, and central bank boards are no different. We also know that firms in which women are decision-makers tend to behave differently. Tim Phillips talks to Paola Profeta, one of the authors of a new paper that finds that female central bankers have a measurable effect on monetary policy.

Portes, 04 October 2018

A report by the UK Government’s independent Migration Advisory Committee draws on new research on the impact of immigration to the UK, particularly on migration, training, and the public finances. This column presents some of the findings from the report.

Fraccaroli, Giovannini, Jamet, 04 October 2018

Central bank independence is a cornerstone of monetary policy, but since the Global Crisis many have questioned the legitimacy of giving policymaking power to unelected officials. The column analyses the way that the ECB's accountability framework functions, and finds the ECB and the European Parliament have increased the intensity and focus of their exchanges since the crisis. Despite populism, the tone of exchanges has remained positive.

Costa-i-Font, 04 October 2018

Many European countries are revisiting how best to finance long-term care, balancing financial sustainability and the economic welfare of households. Using examples of Spain and Scotland, this paper demonstrates that an expansion of public funding for long-term care has an effect on caregiving choices, household finances, and hospital care. Unconditional or cash subsidies may entail a ‘caregiving moral hazard’, but both cash and care subsidies can bring savings to the health system by reducing the frequency and intensity of hospitalisation. 

Bhalotra, Chakravarty, Gulesci, 04 October 2018

Giving bridal dowries is a practice that continues to take place in some South Asian countries to today. Using variations in gold prices, this column provides the first evidence of a causal link between the cost of dowry and parents’ preference for boy children over girls. Girls born in months with higher gold prices are less likely to survive the neo-natal period, and if they do, they go on to be shorter as adults due to poorer nutrition and care.

Beckman, Estrades, Flores, Aguiar, 03 October 2018

Export taxes are the most commonly employed form of export restrictions on agricultural products, but they receive relatively little scrutiny in multilateral trade negotiations. This column demonstrates that taxes have a positive effect on prices, with effects generally detectable in the same year that the taxes are implemented. The removal of export taxes does not affect international prices, but can lead to small decreases in domestic poverty.

Chen, Fang, 03 October 2018

The first group of the cohorts affected by China’s ‘Later, Fewer, Longer’ campaign, which led to the rapid decline of China’s total fertility rate, are now entering their sixties. This column evaluates the long-term consequences of China’s family planning policies on the quality of life of the Chinese elderly. The results suggest that while family planning has either no effect or a slightly positive effect on elderly parents’ physical health status, parents who are more exposed to family planning policies report significantly worse mental health.

Karadi, Jarociński, 03 October 2018

Central bank announcements simultaneously convey information about monetary policy and the economic outlook. This column uses changes in interest rate expectations and stock prices around the time of policy announcements of the Federal Reserve to disentangle the impact of news about monetary policy from that of news about the economic outlook. It finds that both pieces of information play a significant role in the dynamics of inflation and economic growth. Controlling for news about the economy provides a more accurate measure of the transmission of monetary policy.

Pisani-Ferry, 02 October 2018

A year ago, a group of 14 French and German economists joined forces with the aim of forging common proposals for euro area reforms. Their report gave rise to a lively discussion among officials and academics. This column summarises the group's proposals and also addresses some of the points raised in a subsequent Vox debate on the topic.

Desmet, Nagy, Rossi-Hansberg, 02 October 2018

Assessments of the economic cost of a rise in sea-level are often limited to estimating the current value of structures and output in low-lying coastal areas. This column argues that understanding how economic activity will move when faced with flooding is key to correctly evaluating the cost of permanent inundation. When using a high-resolution dynamic spatial model of the world economy, combined with state-of-the-art local projections of sea-level rise for the next 200 years, the cost is substantially lower than when ignoring adaptation through moving. There is huge heterogeneity across space though, with some low-lying coastal areas hit particularly hard. 

Alfaro, Cuñat, Fadinger, Liu, 02 October 2018

Real exchange rate devaluations are typically seen as a viable development strategy, but the effectiveness of the approach may vary over time and across countries. This column explores this issue by focusing on the microeconomics of firm-level responses to exchange rate fluctuations. Results show varying patterns of responses to fluctuations by region and by import/export orientation. These results highlight the crucial role of a firm’s integration in global value chains.

Lopez, Rose, Spiegel, 02 October 2018

Many countries have now adopted negative nominal interest rates. The column uses data on 5,000 banks affected by this policy to conclude that, while their net income has not fallen, strategies to increase non-interest income are unlikely to be sustainable. Therefore we cannot assume that bank performance and lending will carry on at current levels over extended periods of negative policy rates.

Davies, Francois, 01 October 2018

With increasing frustration over the situation as ‘Brexit Day’ approaches, some political pundits are suggesting that an Irish exit from the EU would benefit Ireland. This column assesses the macroeconomic impact of a range of scenarios and argues that while any version of Brexit, with or without Irexit, worsens the Irish economic situation relative to the status quo, economically speaking the best option for Ireland is to stay within the fold of the EU while hoping for and working towards the best in terms of post-Brexit UK economic integration with Europe.

Rodríguez-Pose, Wilkie, 01 October 2018

Economically disadvantaged regions are, arguably by definition, less innovative than advantaged regions. But not all economically disadvantaged areas are the same. This column compares the innovative capacity of economically less-developed areas in North America and Europe, and reveals that less-developed regions in Canada and the US are far more innovative than their European counterparts. Key factors affecting innovation processes include the ability to absorb skilled young labour into the workforce and the types of knowledge flows that are capitalised upon. 

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