April 2019

Calzada, Gil, 30 April 2019

The new European copyright directive prohibits online aggregators from linking to news outlets or publications without the prior authorisation of the publisher. This column uses the 2014 shutdown of Google News in Spain to demonstrate that news aggregators can have a positive impact on outlets’ traffic, in particular outlets with more casual readers, those with a low national rank, and those with fewer international visitors. This heterogenous effect suggests publishers and aggregators may wish to negotiate their own specific compensation terms for content use.

Chen, Steinwender, 30 April 2019

Firms around the world are facing increased import competition, especially from low-wage countries like China, but the effect on the productivity of impacted firms remains unclear. Using data from Spain, this column studies how firms under different types of management respond to an increase in competition, and shows that less-productive firms that are both family owned and managed see the greatest improvement in productivity. Their managers care more about the long-term survival of their firm, prompting additional effort when faced with an increased bankruptcy risk.

Bloom, Lubet, 29 April 2019

As baby boomers get older, many high-income countries face challenges in the provision of pensions and healthcare. The column argues that the US has particularly acute problems arising from its ageing population, high healthcare costs, and high inequality in maternal mortality and other health indicators. It will take deep social policy and health system reforms to address these inequalities.

Bělín, Hanousek, 29 April 2019

The annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation in 2014 led to sanctions by the US and the EU, among others, and counter-sanctions by Russia. This column estimates that the value of trade lost due to Western sanctions over 2014-2016 amounts to $1.3 billion, while trade lost due to the Russian counter-sanctions amounts to $10.5 billion. There appears to be no evidence that Russian importers switched between suppliers from sanctioning countries to competitors from non-sanctioning countries.

Eberhardt, 28 April 2019

Recent evidence suggests that a country switching to democracy achieves about 20% higher per capita GDP over subsequent decades. This column demonstrates the sensitivity of these findings to sample selection and presents an implementation which generalises the empirical approach. If we assume that the democracy–growth nexus can differ across countries and may be distorted by common shocks or network effects, the average long-run effect of democracy falls to 10%.  

Nocco, Ottaviano, Salto, 28 April 2019

Multilateralism in trade is currently under attack. Countries that used to be its most fervent supporters seem dissatisfied with its outcomes and think that they would be better off breaking multilateral agreements. At the same time, faced with the exorbitant market power of giant corporations, governments are increasingly active in unilateral protectionist policies. This column argues that while rising firm market power may weaken the argument in favour of laissez faire, it nonetheless reinforces the case for multilateral policy cooperation. 

Berson, Laouénan, Valat, 27 April 2019

Hiring discrimination against ethnic minorities remains an important issue in most industrialised countries, but few tools have proven their effectiveness in fighting this discrimination. Based on an original correspondence study in France, this column argues that the organisation of recruitment has a large impact on discrimination.The findings suggest that companies that centralise HR practices across establishments are less likely to discriminate against minority ethnic applicants in the first round of selection.

Higgins, Varian, 27 April 2019

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Britain tried to reorient its trade towards the Empire via an advertising campaign led by the Empire Marketing Board. As this column shows, in economic terms, the initiative was a complete failure, producing no increase in the Empire’s share of Britain’s imports. Imperial sentiment conflicted with economic reality: Britain was the biggest global importer of produce from the late 19th century to the interwar period, and the EMB’s activities were constrained by entrenched consumer preferences for non-Empire foodstuffs, such as Argentine beef and Danish butter.

Graddy, 27 April 2019

What does economics teach us about art auctions? Katy Graddy of Brandeis University tells Tim Phillips what he needs to know before he bids for a painting of some artichokes.

Andersen, Gårn Hansen, Lynge Jensen, Wolak, 26 April 2019

Increased reliance on solar and wind power has changed the approach to managing peak demand. The column details the results of a Danish experiment designed to flatten demand in which customers were randomly assigned to receive rebates based on how much consumption they could shift between periods of the day. Asking customers to shift consumption to periods of low net demand would create daily cost savings of €100,000 for the utility in question. Paradoxically, demand-shifting reduces the need for installed generation capacity, but increases overall demand.

Benigno, 26 April 2019

Cryptocurrencies have attracted the attention of consumers, policymakers and the media. This column investigates whether they can jeopardise the primary function of central banks, namely, controlling inflation and economic activity. Currency competition can succeed in calming inflation and preventing the sort of manipulation of interest rates and prices to which governments have historically been prone. But currency competition may also lead to government money losing the function of medium of exchange, which could be risky and lead government currency into further troubles. 

Scheubel, Stracca, Tille, 26 April 2019

More than ten years on from the start of the Global Crisis, policymakers are discussing the effectiveness of the global financial safety net – the combination of reserves, central bank swap lines, regional financial arrangements, and the IMF. This column evaluates the effectiveness of the use of IMF support and foreign reserves in globally driven crises. It finds that actual use of IMF support helps during currency crises – the type of crisis for which the support was originally designed. Use of reserves is of limited effectiveness and only during sudden stops. 

Bolt, Mavromatis, Van Wijnbergen, 25 April 2019

Increasing protectionism will slow down world trade and may dampen global economic growth. This column examines the global macroeconomic consequences of a major trade conflict between the US and China, and shows that the two countries would be the biggest losers from a 10% ‘tit-for-tat’ trade war between them. As long as it does not get involved in the conflict, the euro area may temporally gain from trade diversion, as competitiveness improves and imports from regions whose exports are blocked elsewhere become cheaper.

Jones, 25 April 2019

Nearly 40% of documented new arrivals to the US in 2005 left within ten years, but who return migrates and why is often overlooked in policy debates regarding immigration. This column uses survey data and earnings records from 2005 to 2015 to show that a decline in earnings is a strong predictor of return migration. Those who stayed for the decade saw their wages reach parity with native-born workers, while those who left had seen a steep decline in wages in the years before departure. Further analysis shows that highly educated immigrants are more likely to leave the US within a decade of arrival.

Benson, Li, Shue, 24 April 2019

The Peter Principle states that organisations promote people who are good at their jobs until they reach their ‘level of incompetence’, implying that all managers are incompetent. This column examines data on worker- and manager-level performance for almost 40,000 sales workers across 131 firms and finds evidence that firms systematically promote the best salespeople, even though these workers end up becoming worse managers, and even though there are other observable dimensions of sales worker performance that better predict managerial quality. 

Biasi, 24 April 2019

Rates of intergenerational mobility vary widely across the US. This column investigates the effects of reducing differences in revenues and expenditures across school districts within each state on students’ intergenerational income mobility, using school finance reforms passed in 20 US states between 1986 and 2004. Equalisation has a large effect on mobility, especially for low-income students. The effect acts through a reduction in the gap in inputs and in college attendance between low-income and high-income districts.

Correa-López, de Blas, 23 April 2019

Since the end of WWII, advanced economies have experienced long-lasting swings in economic activity. This column takes a look at the historical data and finds that, over the medium term, output and investment fluctuations among European countries have been even more volatile and persistent than in the US. It also reveals that, by diffusing embodied technology through trade inintermediates, large US firms appear to drive Europe's output over the medium term. 

Fetzer, Schwarz, 23 April 2019

Tariff retaliation is widely believed to be politically motivated. This column presents evidence that retaliation against the Trump administration's tariff hikes seems to be systematically targeted against the Republican voter base. China appears to have been able to achieve a high degree of political targeting but likely harmed its own economy by targeting agricultural goods for which the US is a major supplier. The EU, on the other hand, appears to be more successful in navigating the trade-off. It also finds some evidence suggesting that Republican candidates fared worse in the mid-term elections in the US counties most exposed to retaliation.

Bellora, Fontagné, 22 April 2019

Since 2018, the US administration has implemented several measures limiting free trade with China and other countries. Using cross-country data and a general equilibrium model, this column argues that a trade war hurts not only the targeted countries but also the country imposing the tariffs. Global value chains prompt countries to decrease tariffs when the domestic content of foreign-produced final goods and the imported content of domestic production of final goods are high. Once imposed, tariffs have an indirect effect on third sectors and countries through global value chains.

Blanchet, Chancel, Gethin, 22 April 2019

Despite the growing importance of inequalities in policy debates, it is still difficult to compare inequality levels across European countries and to tell how European growth has been shared across income groups. This column draws on new evidence combining surveys, tax data, and national accounts to document a rise in income inequality in most European countries between 1980 and 2017. It finds that income disparities on the old continent have increased less than in the US and shows that this is essentially due to ‘predistribution’ policies.

Krekel, Ward, De Neve, 21 April 2019

A growing number of companies place a high priority on the wellbeing of their workers, assuming that happier workers will lead to improved productivity. This column examines this link based on a meta-analysis of independent studies accumulated by Gallup, covering the wellbeing and productivity of nearly 2 million employees and the performance of over 80,000 business units, originating from 230 independent organisations across 49 industries in 73 countries. The results suggest a strong positive correlation between employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance.

Aiginger, 20 April 2019

Populism represents a challenge to liberal democracy, pluralism, human rights, and the exchange of ideas. This column examines the features and drivers of populism, as well as the potential strategic response by the EU and its member states. This includes a vision for Europe to become the role model for high-income societies providing well-being, lower unemployment, and less inequality, and a leader in decarbonisation and public sector management.

Cioffi, Romanelli, Rizza, Tommasino, 19 April 2019

During the euro area sovereign crisis we saw contagion and increased interdependence, with the risk of systemic crises. This column sets out a plan to create a European debt redemption fund that pools a portion of sovereign debt. The fund could also become the basis for further euro area reform.

Weinstein, 19 April 2019

Has the trade war with China been good for American businesses and consumers? The first results are in, and David Weinstein tells Tim Phillips who the winners and losers are.

Delaney, Devereux, 19 April 2019

Women are much less likely to study STEM degrees at university. This column reveals that in the case of Ireland, the gender gap is concentrated in the areas of engineering, technology, and mathematics. Subject choice in secondary school is the most important predictor of the portion of the gap that can be explained, with a small role for grades achieved in mathematics versus English. A gender gap of 9% remains even among students who studied the same subjects and achieved the same grades at secondary school.

Hindriks, Serse, 19 April 2019

Alcohol tax pass-through can vary substantially across products, but it also depends on the location of stores. This column examines retail prices of six major brands of spirits in Belgium after a tax reform, and finds evidence that the impact on prices varied across regions. These variations depended on the intensity of local competition and, to a lesser extent, proximity to national borders. 

Chetty, Friedman, 18 April 2019

Using confidential data to publish statistics based on small samples is challenging due to privacy loss. This column introduces a simple method for dealing with this issue which adds noise to each statistic in proportion to its sensitivity to the addition or removal of a single observation from the data. The method generally outperforms widely used methods of disclosure limitation such as count-based cell suppression both in terms of privacy loss and statistical bias. As an illustration, the method is used to release estimates of social mobility by Census tract in the Opportunity Atlas. 

Mills, Capie, Goodhart, 18 April 2019

It is well known that the slope of the term structure of interest rates contains information for forecasting the likelihood of a recession in the US. This column examines whether the same is true for the UK. Focusing on three periods – the pre-WWI era, the inter-war years, and the post-WWII period – it finds strong support for the inverted yield curve being a predictor of UK recessions for both the pre-WWI and post-WWII periods, but the evidence is less conclusive for the inter-war years.

Schoenmaker, 17 April 2019

The ECB’s market-neutral approach to monetary policy undermines the general aim of the EU to achieve a low-carbon economy. The column argues that steering the allocation of the Eurosystem’s assets and collateral towards low-carbon sectors would reduce the cost of capital for these sectors relative to high-carbon sectors. A modest titling approach could accelerate a transition to a low-carbon economy, and could be implemented without interfering with the priority of price stability.

Johnson, Papageorgiou, 16 April 2019

The recent wave of growth in several developing economies has led to many analysts to claim that poorer countries are catching up with advanced economies. This column argues that, with the exception of a few countries in Asia which exhibited transformational growth, most of the economic achievements in developing economies have been the result of removing inefficiencies which are merely one-off level effects. While these effects are not unimportant and are necessary in the process of development, they do not imply ongoing economic growth.

Ito, Saito, 16 April 2019

Small and medium-sized firms can enjoy the benefits of trade liberalisation by exporting their goods or importing inputs through intermediaries. Using firm-level data from Japan, this column finds that firms in regional areas are smaller than those in metropolitan areas and are less likely to participate in indirect or direct trade. Direct and indirect exports and imports represent a large share of regional economies, and indirect exporters in regional areas are likely to become direct exporters. In addition, both newly started direct export/import firms and newly started indirect export/import firms tend to grow faster.

Hanushek, Peterson, Talpey, Woessmann, 15 April 2019

For 50 years, anti-poverty government programmes in the US have focused on improving school outcomes for poor children. This column reports new evidence that, contrary to recent thinking that gaps in student achievement by socioeconomic status have increased over the years, the gaps have been essentially flat over the past half-century. New policies and new approaches seem called for if we wish to lessen these gaps.

Ravallion, 15 April 2019

It is 50 years since the Sino-Malay race riots in Kuala Lumpur prompted a policy effort to reduce Malaysia’s longstanding ethnic inequalities. This column argues that while reduced ethnic/racial disparities in living standards has played an important role in the country's ability to manage overall relative inequality and in its impressive progress against poverty over the last 50 years, overall economic growth has been more important. However, the potential gains to poor Malaysians from progress toward ethnic equality do not appear to have been exhausted yet. 

Frey, Gallus, 14 April 2019

The last decades have seen a marked increase in the use of incentive pay as firms compete for talent. This column weighs up the pros and cons of an alternative way to giving people incentives, namely, honouring them. It argues that bestowing awards instead of increasing bonuses or other forms of monetary compensation constitutes a valuable alternative to induce effort without contributing to inequality in the distribution of income.

Xu, Bertrand, Burgess, 14 April 2019

How the personnel of the state perform is likely to have important implications for its effectiveness and economic performance. This column combines administrative records with survey data on the performance of Indian Administrative Service officers to examine how social proximity affects bureaucrat performance. The results suggest that officers allocated to their home state perform worse than comparable officers who are allocated to non-home states.

Boeri, Ichino, Moretti, Posch, 13 April 2019

In many European countries, wages are determined by collective bargaining agreements intended to improve wages and reduce inequality. This column compares the impact of different wage bargaining models in Italy, which has limited geographical wage differences in nominal terms and almost no relationship between local productivity and local nominal wages, and Germany, which has a tighter link between local wages and local productivity. The Italian system is successful at reducing nominal wage inequality, but creates costly geographic imbalances. If Italy were to adopt the German system, aggregate employment and earnings would increase by 11.04% and 7.45%, respectively. 

Iriberri, 12 April 2019

How should multiple choice tests be scored? It seems like a harmless question, but Nagore Iriberri tells Tim Phillips how she discovered that well-intentioned marking schemes may be penalising girls, and what we can do about it.

Huning, Wolf, 12 April 2019

State borders can change due to both political and economic disputes. This column shows how the formation of the German state can be traced back to British political intervention at the end of the Napoleonic War. In preventing Russia from gaining territory westwards, Britain set in motion a series of events that gave Prussia strategic trade advantages. This led to the formation of Europe's first customs union (the Zollverein) and prepared the political unification of Germany.

Ha, Kose, Ohnsorge, 11 April 2019

Emerging market and developing economies have achieved a remarkable decline in inflation since the early 1970s, supported by robust monetary policy frameworks, strengthening of global trade, financial integration, and the disruptions caused by the global crisis. The column argues that a continuation of low and stable inflation in these countries is not guaranteed. If this wave of structural and policy-related factors loses momentum, elevated inflation could re-emerge. Policymakers may find that maintaining low inflation is as difficult as achieving it.

Hamaguchi, Kondo, 11 April 2019

Computerisation and robotics have had a profound effect on labour markets. Using data from Japan, this column finds that female workers are more exposed to risks of computerisation than male workers, and that this tendency is more pronounced in larger cities. The results suggest that supporting additional human capital investment alone is not enough as a risk alleviation strategy against new technology. Policymakers need to address structural labour market issues, such as gender biases in career progression and participation in decision-making positions.

Rey, Weder di Mauro, 10 April 2019

CEPR is working in partnership with UBS to celebrate contributions of women in economics, with a series of portraits and video interviews on a dedicated website. This programme shines a light on quality research and policymaking from female leaders in their field. "Women in Economics" will feature videos of prominent researchers discussing their work and insights. The content is designed to appeal to non-expert audiences, as well as those with a deeper understanding of economics. Beyond the digital content, the programme will include events for students and economists.

Perez-Truglia, 10 April 2019

Tax records became easily accessible online in Norway in 2001, allowing everyone in the country to observe the incomes of everyone else. This column offers evidence that people primarily went online to snoop on the incomes of friends, relatives, and other contacts. This game of income comparisons negatively affected the wellbeing of poorer Norwegians while at the same time boosting the self-esteem of the rich.

Lund, Bughin, 10 April 2019

The history of trade reflects the ongoing march of technological innovation. This column argues that despite today’s increased trade tensions, rising nationalism, and slowdown in global goods trade, globalisation is not in retreat. Instead, it is entering a new chapter that is being driven by flows of information and data, as well as technological changes that are reshaping industry value chains.

Ocampo, 09 April 2019

The IMF will turn 75 this year. Updating and reforming of some aspects of its core functions should be considered to reflect the current global monetary context. This column analyses the IMF’s global reserve system, identifying three issues and suggesting two alternatives. Ultimately, greater use of the Fund’s Special Drawing Rights would mitigate several problems in the current system.

Josephson, Shapiro, 09 April 2019

The poor performance of credit ratings of structured finance products in the financial crisis has prompted investigation into the role of credit rating agencies. This column discusses the incidence of rating inflation when such an agency both designs and rates securities, highlighting the role of demand from investors that face rating constraints, such as banks, pension funds, or insurance companies. It finds that ratings are accurate when these constraints are very tight or very lax, but inflated otherwise.

Fetzer, 08 April 2019

A rich literature has emerged aiming to make sense of the causes behind the Brexit vote, but it has mainly been descriptive. This column uses regional-level data on spending and voting behaviour, as well as individual-level survey data, to argue that the austerity policies in place in the UK since 2010 were an important contributing factor to the vote to Leave.  Estimates suggest that the close-run referendum could have resulted in a victory for Remain had it not been for austerity.

Alesina, Murard, Rapoport, 08 April 2019

A large literature shows that generosity, both public and private, is more freely extended within the same group rather than across groups. This column examines how immigration affects natives’ attitudes towards redistribution and the implications for welfare states in Europe. The main finding is that in regions which have received a larger share of immigrants, natives are in general less favourable towards redistribution. Some European countries face the dilemma of natives favouring generous welfare policies for themselves but opposing them for immigrants.

Harrison, Meyer, Wang, Zhao, Zhao, 07 April 2019

The conventional wisdom that privatisation of state-owned enterprises reduces their dependence on the state and yields positive economic benefits has not always been borne out by empirical work. Using a comprehensive dataset from China, this column shows that privatised SOEs continue to benefit from government support in the form of low-interest loans and subsidies relative to private enterprises that have never been state-owned. Although there are clear improvements in performance post-privatisation, privatised SOEs continue to significantly under-perform compared to private firms.

Caucutt, Guner, Rauh, 06 April 2019

In 2006, 67% of white women in the US between the ages of 25 and 54 were married, compared with only 34% of black women. This column examines the link between this and the decline in low-skilled jobs and the era of mass incarceration that have disproportionately affected black communities. It finds that differences in incarceration and employment dynamics between black and white men account for half of the black–white marriage gap.

Schoenmaker, 05 April 2019

We're not short of policies intended to save us from catastrophic climate change, but should monetary policy be part of this effort? Dirk Schoenmaker of Erasmus University thinks so, and he tells Tim Phillips how it would work in practice.

Ryan, Whelan, 05 April 2019

The EU’s asset purchase programme saw its central banks’ reserve balances increase to unprecedent levels. This column analyses the response of banks in the euro area to this expansion in system-wide reserves, in particular whether they absorbed the excess liquidity or tried to push it off their balance sheets. The findings suggest that banks dealt with the increased reserves with the purchase of debt securities or paying down funding sources rather than lending to the real economy.

Revoltella, Brutscher, Wruuck, 05 April 2019

Spending on education underpins the formation of human capital. But intra-EU labour mobility means that returns to such spending often accrue somewhere other than where the investment takes place, which can lead to sub-optimal levels of investment in countries that are subject to persistent outward migration. This column advocates for more intra-EU coordination on investment in education and proposes a novel mechanism for fostering more investment in human capital across the EU.

Andrews, Petroulakis, 04 April 2019

Europe’s productivity problem is partly due to the rise of zombie firms that crowd out growth opportunities for others. This column explores the tendency for weak banks to evergreen loans to zombie firms to avoid realising losses on their balance sheet. Measures to strengthen bank balance sheets will be enhanced by insolvency regimes that encourage corporate restructuring.

Auerbach, Gorodnichenko, Murphy, 04 April 2019

The strength of fiscal multipliers and spillovers have been the subject of intense debate in recent years.Using data on US Department of Defense contracts and income and employment outcomes, this column finds evidence of  strong positive spillovers across locations and industries, although the geographical spillovers appear to dissipate fairly quickly with distance. Both backward linkages and general equilibrium effects contribute to the positive spillovers.

Aiyar, Ebeke, 03 April 2019

There are contrasting theories on the relationship between income inequality and growth, and the empirical evidence is similarly mixed. This column highlights the neglected role of equality of opportunity in mediating this relationship.  Using the World Bank’s new Global Database on Intergenerational Mobility, it shows that in societies where opportunities are unequally distributed, income inequality exerts a greater drag on growth. 

Alter, Gelos, Kang, Narita, Nier, 03 April 2019

The IMF’s new iMaPP database integrates five major existing databases to build a comprehensive picture of macroprudential policies in use globally. This column shows how this rich dataset provides novel insights into the non-linear effects of changes in loan-to-value limits as one example of how better data can help policymakers to use macroprudential tools more precisely and effectively.

Couttenier, Hatte, Thoenig, Vlachos, 02 April 2019

Populists often claim that immigration is a threat to the interests of the majority. This column quantifies the extent to which the media coverage of immigrant crime fuelled populist political support in a Swiss referendum. It finds that disproportionate coverage of immigrant crime increased an anti-minaret vote by 5%.

Eichengreen, El-Ganainy, Esteves, Mitchener, 01 April 2019

The history of sovereign debt evolved over time along with the purposes for which governments borrowed: first state building, then public-good provision, and most recently social welfare and entitlements. Although many periods when debt-to-GDP ratios rose explosively culminated in funding crises, debasements and restructurings, less widely appreciated are episodes of successful debt consolidation achieved through rapid growth or budgetary discipline. This column analyses the economic and political circumstances that made these debt consolidation episodes possible.

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