March 2019

Furman, Nagler, Watzinger, 31 March 2019

It is a concern amongst policymakers that the disclosure component of patents is insufficient in stimulating subsequent innovation. Using evidence on patent trends around Patent Depository Libraries in the US, this column shows that the availability of information on prior art positively impacts innovation in the field. In the pre-internet era, these libraries helped reduce geographical barriers to knowledge diffusion.

Peters, Roberts, Vuong, 30 March 2019

International markets can provide exporting firms with more opportunities to generate and introduce innovations and capitalise on their investments relative to purely domestic firms. Using German data, this column demonstrates that exporting firms introduce innovations more frequently than domestic firms and have higher economic gains from their innovations. Trade restrictions such as tariffs can affect a firm’s economic activities in foreign markets and also their R&D and innovation activities.

Miguel, 29 March 2019

Randomised controlled trials have revolutionised development policy. But do the interventions that work in the short run have a benefit 10 or 20 years later? Ted Miguel tells Tim Phillips how he and his colleagues aim to find out.

Frankel, 29 March 2019

The supposed deadline for a conclusion to China–US trade negotiations has been postponed until late April. This column argues that the structural reform aspect of the negotiations is reminiscent of US negotiations with Japan three decades ago, and that the Structural Impediments Initiative between the two countries could, in theory, serve as a useful model for the current US–China negotiations. The question is whether Presidents Trump and Xi have as firm a grasp on economic principles as their predecessors. 

Merlevede, Purice, 29 March 2019

Supplying inputs to multinational firms has been shown to increase the productivity of domestic firms, while borders have been shown to substantially reduce trade activities. This column investigates whether spillover effects from multinationals on local firms occur when firms are separated by a national border. Using data for seven Central and Eastern European countries and their neighbours, it finds that cross-border spillovers only occur after EU integration, and that participation in the Schengen Area magnifies these effects. The results bear testimony to successful EU integration and warn about potential productivity costs to local firms should border controls be reinstated.

Berger, Engzell, 28 March 2019

There are striking regional variations in economic opportunity across the US. This column proposes a historical explanation for this, showing that local levels of income equality and intergenerational mobility in the US resemble those of the European countries that current inhabitants trace their origins from. The findings point to the persistence of differences in local culture, norms, and institutions.

Becker, Ivashina, 28 March 2019

In the past 30 years, defaults on corporate bonds in the US have been substantially above the historical average. Using firm-level data, this column shows that the increase in credit risk can be largely attributed to an increase in the rate at which new and fast-growing firms displace incumbents, a phenomenon defined as ‘disruption’. Incumbent revenue growth suffers when there are many IPOs in an industry, and newly issued bonds in high-disruption industries have higher yields.

Martinez-Miera, Repullo, 27 March 2019

Various factors have been advanced as possible causes of the build-up of risks leading to the Global Crisis, and multiple policies have been put forward to address them. This column discusses the effectiveness of monetary policy and macroprudential policy in responding to the build-up of risks in the financial sector. While both policies are useful, macroprudential policy is more effective in terms of financial stability and can lead to higher welfare gains.

Cantore, Ferroni, León-Ledesma, 27 March 2019

Despite its importance, there is no systematic empirical evidence on the effect of monetary policy shocks on the share of output allocated to wages. Using data for five developed economies, this column finds that standard models generate the ‘wrong sign’ for the effect when compared to the empirical results, and that the labour share temporarily increases following a positive shock to the interest rate. Using the standard models to analyse the distributional effects of monetary shocks could be misleading.  

Kremer, Snyder, Chen, 26 March 2019

The deadweight loss from a monopolist’s not producing at all can be much greater than from charging too high a price. The column argues that the potential for this sort of deadweight loss is greatest when the market demand curve has a particular (Zipf) shape. Calibrations based on the world distribution of income generate this shape, with disturbing consequences for potential deadweight loss in global markets.

Fatás, Weder di Mauro, 26 March 2019

We should not expect a high correlation between ICO tokens and the price of Bitcoin or Ethereum given that they have very different business cases. This column demonstrates that this was indeed the case during 2007, but the moment the Bitcoin/Ethereum bubble burst, the correlation with ICOs increased and it remained high even when prices had stabilised. This may have been because the ICO market is still in its infancy and needs to mature, or it may indicate that ICOs were just one of the children of the hype and are likely to share the fate of major cryptocurrencies.

Dunga, Hardie, Kelly, Lawson, 25 March 2019

As climate change worsens and the forces of populism gather, there is a strong argument for moving beyond narrow economic measures of national progress. This column presents a new indicator of progress that integrates environmental, social, and governance factors into growth analysis. Results show that the countries that have been able to blend economic dynamism with environmental, social, and governance dynamism are mostly developing economies. These countries often fly under the radar of traditional macroeconomic analyses. 

Booth, Meng, 25 March 2019

The literature examining the effect of conflict on trust and trustworthiness has reached contradictory conclusions. This column studies the long-term behavioural impact of the Cultural Revolution in China, which was a major in-group conflict. It finds that the children and grandchildren of those who were mentally or physically abused during the Revolution are less trusting, less trustworthy, and less likely to be competitively inclined relative to peers whose parents/grandparents experienced the Cultural Revolution but were not directly mistreated. 

Bhuller, Dahl, Løken, Mogstad, 24 March 2019

Incarceration rates have tripled in the US and almost doubled in Western Europe over the past 50 years. This column uses data on the criminal behaviour and labour market outcomes of every Norwegian to show that in contrast to the US, where incarceration appears to encourage reoffending and damages labour prospects, the Norwegian prison system is successful in increasing participation in job training programmes, encouraging employment, and discouraging crime. It argues that Norway’s high rehabilitation expenditures are more than offset by the corresponding benefits to society.

Hazan, Weiss, Zoabi, 23 March 2019

Countries such as England, the US, Canada, and Australia granted property rights to married women in the 19th century. The column uses US census and economic data from the time to show that the impact was financial as well as social. Women kept more of their assets as cash in US states that granted these rights. This reduced interest rates and accelerated industrialisation in these regions.

van der Klaauw, 22 March 2019

Our cities are diverse, but often the schools in these cities are less so. Bas van der Klaauw of VU University Amsterdam tells Tim Phillips that it is not necessarily where we live that creates school segregation.

Cappariello, Mancini, Vergara Caffarelli, 22 March 2019

EU and the UK production networks are highly integrated, and Brexit poses a threat to supply and demand linkages between the two economies. This column describes how the effect of tariffs will be magnified due to back-and-forth trade across the Channel. This will increase production costs in the UK and, to a lesser extent, in the EU.

Akcomak, Overvest, 22 March 2019

The European Commission plans to spend about €120 billion on research and innovation under mission-oriented programmes between 2021 and 2027. This column shows that planned spending is small both relative to the total R&D spending of individual EU countries and relative to previous missions. In addition, there is a lack of clarity on how missions will be determined, designed and governed. Experiences in other countries suggest that the Commission should find new ways of increasing funding to missions and increase clarity on the implementation of mission-oriented policies.

Amstad, 21 March 2019

Two events have shaped the financial system over the past ten years: the Global Crisis and the rise of fintech. But while the lessons learned after the crisis have been widely discussed and the regulatory response broadly agreed upon, the question of whether and how to regulate fintech is a topic of an ongoing policy debate. This column discusses the three basic options that regulators have: ignore it, ‘duck type’ rules into existing regulations, or specifically tailor new regulations.

Ferrero, Pietrunti, Tiseno, 21 March 2019

Dealing with uncertainty about the state of the economy is one of the main challenges facing monetary policymakers. In recent years there has been an extensive debate on the value of some of the deep parameters driving the economy, such as the natural rate of interest and the slope of the Phillips curve, estimates of which are quite uncertain. This column argues that when facing uncertainty on the structural relationship among macroeconomic variables, central banks should adopt a pragmatic and data-dependent approach to adjusting their monetary policy stance. 

Brunnermeier, Niepelt, 20 March 2019

Both proponents and opponents of central bank digital currency have suggested that it would fundamentally change the macroeconomy. This column questions this paradigm, arguing that the introduction of such a currency need not alter the allocation nor the price system. Concerns about central bank digital currency choking investment, cutting into banks’ profits, or increasing the likelihood of bank runs are misplaced.

Slivinski, Sussman, 20 March 2019

The problem of tax compliance is as old as the levying of taxes. Innovations in tax administration that induce high compliance rates at reasonable cost are extremely important to governments. This column demonstrates how the taille, a tax collection mechanism from medieval Paris, raised compliance by turning the social cost of tax evasion into a private one. It offers a tax collection model that is still relevant to governments today.

Autor, 19 March 2019

Labour markets in US cities today are vastly more educated and skill-intensive than they were 50 years ago, but urban non-college workers now perform much less skilled work than they did. This column shows that automation and international trade have eliminated many of the mid-skilled non-college jobs that were disproportionately based in cities. This has contributed to a secular fall in real non-college wages.

Chen, Oparina, Powdthavee, Srisuma, 18 March 2019

Recent critiques of wellbeing research have shown that mean comparisons of reported and latent happiness across groups are valid only under strong assumptions that are usually rejected by the data. This leads to scepticism over whether econometric analysis of wellbeing data can be used to inform policy. This column suggests using the median rather than the mean, because the median ranking is stable across all increasing transformations. When focusing on the median of wellbeing data, the Easterlin Paradox still holds.

van Bergeijk, 18 March 2019

Many associate Brexit and the Trumpian trade wars with the start of a new phase of deglobalisation. This column argues that we should view them as symptoms rather than causes, as the world had already started to fundamentally change before either came on the horizon. Neither the delay to Brexit nor the extended pause in the US–China tariff war means that the risks of deglobalisation have diminished.

Andolfatto, 17 March 2019

The idea of a central bank digital currency has prompted a mixed reaction among economists. This column uses a simple theoretical framework to investigate the impact of such a currency on a monopolistic banking sector. There are two main results. First, the introduction of an interest-bearing digital currency increases financial inclusion, diminishing the demand for physical cash. Second, while an interest-bearing digital currency reduces monopoly profit, it need not disintermediate banks in any way. A central bank digital currency may, in fact, lead to an expansion of bank deposits if the resulting competition compels banks to raise their deposit rates.

Ren, Branstetter, Kovak, Armanios, Yuan, 16 March 2019

Despite leading the world in clean energy investment in recent years, China continues to engage in massive expansion of coal power thanks to policies that effectively subsidise and (over)incentivise coal power investment. This column examines the effects of the 2014 devolution of authority from the central government to local governments on approvals for coal power projects. It finds that the approval rate for coal power projects is about three times higher when the approval authority is decentralised, and provinces with larger coal industries tend to approve more coal power.

Zilibotti, 15 March 2019

We all want happy, successful kids, so how can economics help? Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale talks to Tim Phillips about the research that he and his peers have done into parenting and what it tells us.

Maida, Weber, 15 March 2019

Mandated gender quotas in Italy have been successful at increasing the number of women on boards. But the relevant law is temporary and affects only a small number of firms. The column uses evidence on employment and earnings to show no increase in female representation at the top executive level or among top earners. This may be because norms and perceptions take time to change, or because newly appointed women in senior roles wield limited power.

Doerr, Peydró, Voth, 15 March 2019

Polarised politics in the wake of financial crises echo throughout modern history, but evidence of a causal link between economic downturns and populism is limited. This column shows that financial crisis-induced misery boosted far right-wing voting in interwar Germany. In towns and cities where many firms were exposed to failing banks, Nazi votes surged. In particular, places exposed to the one bank led by a Jewish chairman registered particularly strong increases of support – scapegoating Jews was easier with seemingly damning evidence of their negative influence.  

Yamamoto, 14 March 2019

The adoption of new information technologies such as AI in more workplaces is influencing not just employment and wages, but worker well-being such as job satisfaction, stress, and health. Surveying approximately 10,000 workers in Japan, this column analyses the impact of new information technologies on the nature of tasks performed by workers, job satisfaction, and work-related stress. It finds that AI adoption contributes to both greater job satisfaction and increased stress, and considers approaches to maximise the positives of new technologies adoption while minimising its negative side effects.

Eichengreen, Mehl, Chiţu, 14 March 2019

Both economics and geopolitics matter for trade agreements. In particular, defence pacts raise the probability of a trade agreement between a pair of countries by as much as 20 percentage points. This column estimates that were the US to alienate its geopolitical allies, the likelihood and benefits of successful bilateral agreements would diminish significantly. Expected trade creation from an agreement between the US and EU countries would decline by 0.6% of total US exports.

de Melo, Solleder, 13 March 2019

Developing countries have not participated in the WTO-led negotiations aimed at bringing down barriers to trade in environmental goods. If negotiations conclude, would the win for trade and for the environment be extended to a win for developing countries? This column draws insights from a newly assembled comprehensive dataset on barriers to trade in environmental goods and provides evidence that tariffs and non-tariff barriers are still an impediment to trade while similar regulations stimulate it. A larger list of environmental goods would entice developing-country participation, but this will also require protecting developing countries from challenges at the WTO.

Elbourne, Ji, Smid, 13 March 2019

Previous research has shown that changes to the size of the ECB’s balance sheet were followed by meaningful changes in macroeconomic aggregates. This column argues that the econometric technique these studies employed does not provide reliable estimates. Impulse responses to purported balance sheet shocks are statistically indistinguishable from those from nonsensical identification schemes. The effectiveness of the ECB’s balance sheet policies is therefore still unproven.

Faia, Pezone, 12 March 2019

Policymakers are concerned about effecting real change with monetary policy, particularly in the context of wage rigidity. This column uses extensive Italian data to analyse the extent to which wage rigidity induced by collective bargaining amplifies the effects of monetary policy. The volatility of stock market returns reacts more to monetary policy announcements when the average time left before the renewal of the employees’ collective agreement is large.

Borgonovo, Caselli, Cillo, Masciandaro, Rabitti, 12 March 2019

Alongside liquidity and store of value, is privacy an important attribute of money? Using laboratory experiments, the column shows that privacy matters, and increases the overall appeal of money. The experiments suggest that future competition between alternative currencies will depend on how the three properties are mixed.

Lang, Welz, 11 March 2019

Financial crises are often preceded by credit excesses, but how do we know when credit is excessive? This column shows that deviations of household credit from levels that are justified by economic fundamentals exhibit long cycles of 15 to 25 years with large amplitudes of around 20%. Household credit excesses build up many years ahead of financial crises and only gradually unwind thereafter. Most importantly, higher levels of household credit imbalances are associated with larger declines in real GDP once a financial crisis hits. The findings suggest that household credit cycles should be carefully monitored by macroprudential policymakers to ensure financial stability.

Das, Mitchener, Vossmeyer, 11 March 2019

The Global Crisis brought attention to how connections among financial institutions may make systems more prone to crises. Turning to a major financial crisis from the past, this column uses data from the Great Depression to study risk in the commercial banking network leading up to the crisis and how the network structure influenced the outcomes. It demonstrates that when the distribution of risk is more concentrated at the top of the system, as it was in 1929, fragility and the propensity for risk to spread increases.

Farhi, Gourio, 10 March 2019

Most developed economies have experienced large declines in risk-free interest rates and lacklustre investment over the past 30 years, while the profitability of private capital has increased slightly. Using an extension of the neoclassical growth model, this column identifies what accounts for these developments. It finds that rising market power, rising unmeasured intangibles, and rising risk premia play a crucial role, over and above the traditional culprits of increasing savings supply and technological growth slowdown.

Kalara, Zhang, van der Wiel, 09 March 2019

The Global Crisis has profoundly changed the financial landscape, including firm financing. This column examines the development of various channels of firm financing before and after the crisis among four groups of EU countries, the US, and Japan. While bank finance and, to some extent, equity finance are under pressure, alternative finance, although small, seems to be on the rise.

Markevich, 09 March 2019

Prior to World War I, many authorities believed that countries with substantial agrarian sectors and grain exports, including the Russian Empire, could overcome war hardships more easily than those countries that imported grain. This column asks why the experts got it wrong in the case of Russia, and concludes that the economics and politics of the Russian grain and labour markets provide the answer. It was impossible simultaneously to mobilise 15 million males into the Russian army, procure the grain to feed them as soldiers, and avoid revolution. 

Malamud, Cueto, Cristia, Beuermann, 08 March 2019

Many governments and NGOs have invested substantial resources in expanding internet access to children in developing countries. This column reports on an experiment in Peru in which laptops and access to the internet were provided to schoolchildren. While those selected to receive a laptop did improve their digital skills, the results suggest that increased access to the internet at home did not improve academic achievement, cognitive or socio-emotional skills, which are arguably the more important outcomes of such interventions.

Auer, 08 March 2019

Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies are exchanged via simple technical protocols for communication between participants, as well as a publicly shared ledger of transactions known as a blockchain. This column discusses research on how cryptocurrencies verify that payments are final, that is, that they are irreversible once written into the blockchain. It points to the high costs of achieving such finality via ‘proof-of-work’ and to a crucial externality in the transaction market, and argues that with the current technology, the liquidity of cryptocurrencies is set to shrink dramatically in the years to come.

, 08 March 2019

The European Community's FRAME project, of which the CEPR has been a partner, recently held its final conference in London. Tim Phillips talked to some of its key participants, including Román Arjona (Chief Economist, DG Research & Innovation, European Commission) and Jonathan Haskel (Member, Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee), about what FRAME's research into innovation tells us, and how it might be translated into policy.

CEPR is a partner of the FRAME Project, which is co-ordinated by ZEW. The CEPR team is led by Diego Comin, a Research Fellow in its Macroeconomics and Growth Programme. The FRAME project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the grant agreement No #727073.

Brei, Ferri, Gambacorta, 07 March 2019

There is mounting evidence that income inequality and disparities in wealth have been rising in advanced economies in the recent decades. Using data on advanced and emerging economies, this column investigates the link between an economy's financial structure – that is, the mix of bank-provided versus market-provided funds – and income inequality. Results show that the relationship is not monotonic. More finance reduces income inequality up to a point, but beyond that point inequality rises, especially if finance is expanded via market-based financing.

Saint-Paul, 07 March 2019

Macroeconomic populism typically leads to higher levels of public debt, public spending, deficits, and crises. Nevertheless, this column argues that it is rational for groups of voters to vote for a populist who reflects their interests, because they will be favoured when a fiscal adjustment occurs. The greater the fiscal adjustment required, the more likely voters are to elect a populist who will discriminate between groups. 

Dingel, Meng, 06 March 2019

Climate change is expected to reshape the global distribution of productivities. In theory, shifts in the spatial structure of economic conditions will affect international inequality by altering the pattern of international trade. In practice, it is hard to identify natural experiments to causally validate predictions about global conditions. This column describes research that exploits a global climatic phenomenon to estimate the general equilibrium consequences of changes in the spatial correlation of productivities. 

Shirai, 06 March 2019

Recent years have seen the emergence of digital currencies such as Bitcoin as potential private sector money. Central banks are also considering whether to issue their own digital tokens to enable decentralised verification of transactions while maintaining attractive cash-like features. This column lays out the four existing proposals for implementing central bank digital currency. Due largely to technical constraints, however, central banks in general have not found a compelling reason to issue their own digital currency.

Dessaint, Foucault, Frésard, Matray, 05 March 2019

Stock prices respond to fundamental shocks (i.e. news) and non-fundamental shocks (noise). Using US data from 1996 to 2011, this column argues that stock prices are a ‘faulty informant’ for corporate managers because managers have limited ability to separate information from noise when using prices as signals about their prospects. The ensuing losses of capital investment and shareholders’ wealth are large and even affect firms that are not facing severe financing constraints or agency problems.

Fatás, 05 March 2019

In recent years, the arrival of new financial technologies has opened a debate about the extent of their implications for the nature of money, the way new ventures are funded, and so on. This column introduces a new Vox eBook that summarises current research on the impact of these changes and how to manage the possible disruption in financial markets, where governance and regulation are central.

Coibion, Gorodnichenko, Ropele, 05 March 2019

With nominal short-term interest rates close to their effective lower bound, monetary policies partly operate through changing the inflation expectations. This column analyses the causal effect of inflation expectations on firms’ economic decisions in Italy. Higher inflation expectations on the part of firms leads them to raise their prices, increase their utilisation of credit, and reduce their employment. But when policy rates are constrained by the effective lower bound, expansionary effects are stronger, leading firms to raise their prices more and no longer reduce their employment.

Bielecki, Brzoza-Brzezina, Kolasa, 05 March 2019

Population ageing is likely to affect many areas of life, from pension system sustainability to housing markets. This column shows that monetary policy can be considered another victim. Low fertility rates and increasing life expectancy substantially lower the natural rate of interest. As a consequence, central banks are more likely to hit the lower bound constraint on the nominal interest rate and face long periods of low inflation, especially if they fail to account for the impact of demographic trends on the natural interest rate in real time.

Keuschnigg, Kogler, 04 March 2019

Only strong banks can fulfil their Schumpeterian role by efficiently reallocating credit. The column argues that high capital standards, efficient bankruptcy laws, and a lower cost of bank equity improve credit reallocation and thereby support the productive specialisation of the economy. An efficient banking sector also magnifies the gains from trade liberalisation by easing the process of capital reallocation.

Boone, Goujard, 04 March 2019

The ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations in France appear, at least in part, to be another example of the anti-globalisation sentiment that has emerged in a number of OECD countries. This column argues that the movement is also rooted in the country’s broken social elevator. Redistribution through taxes and social transfers is not sufficient to curb the inequality in opportunity, which is mostly linked to the educational system and perpetuates economic and social situations from one generation to the next.

Monras, 03 March 2019

Arguments over the effect of immigration on labour market outcomes focus on a single number: the impact on low-skill wages. The column uses a model of the adjustment process of labour markets in the US to the peso crisis of 1995 to show there is a difference between short-run and long-run effects. The model suggests that state-level policies are unlikely to be effective.

Goncharenko, Ongena, Rauf, 03 March 2019

Most regulators grant contingent convertible bonds the status of equity. The theory, however, suggests that these securities can distort banks’ incentives to issue new equity. Using a model and European data, this column shows that banks with lower risk are more likely to issue CoCos compared to their riskier counterparts. In line with Basel III, banks are expected to raise equity prior to CoCo conversion, which makes the bonds an expensive source of capital. The design of CoCos should be revised if they are to enjoy equity-like treatment. 

Darden, Papageorge, 02 March 2019

When people lack options to manage pain many choose to ‘self-medicate’, turning to substances that are dangerous and ‘off label’ in an effort to seek relief. This column tests a theory of rational self-medication in the context of alcohol and depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which were approved in the US in the mid-1980s, appear to have had an indirect benefit by reducing the consumption of alcohol as an alternative form of self-medication for depression. The findings illustrate the importance of considering the behavioural ramifications of new medication and therapy.

Pekkala Kerr, Kerr, 01 March 2019

Despite recent research looking at the growing contribution that immigrants make to innovation and entrepreneurship in the US, little is known about if or how the processes immigrants and natives use in this regard differ. This column uses surveys of individuals working in shared workspaces in Boston and St Louis to examine how immigrant entrepreneurs network and how their networking behaviour differs from natives.The findings suggest that immigrants take more advantage of networking opportunities at the workspaces, especially around the exchange of advice.

Veldkamp, 01 March 2019

The digital economy makes it possible for data-savvy firms to grow very large, very quickly. Laura Veldkamp of Columbia Business School tells Tim Phillips about her new project to model the Big Data economy.

Hau, Ouyang, Yuan, 01 March 2019

Trade between the US and China is widely thought to have contributed significantly to the decline in US manufacturing employment between 1999 and 2007. Flipping the point of view, this column examines the impact on China of the growth in trade and finds that for every US manufacturing job lost, almost six new Chinese manufacturing jobs were created. International trade did not contribute to faster wage rises for Chinese industrial workers but instead channelled agricultural and non-participating workers into the industrial labour market. 

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