December 2019

Henriques, Palma, 10 December 2019

The decline of countries such as Castile and Portugal, which first benefited from access to the New World, relative to their followers, especially England and the Netherlands, is often attributed to the quality of the Iberian countries’ institutions at the time Atlantic trade opened. This column questions this narrative by comparing Iberian and English institutional quality over time, considering the frequency and nature of parliamentary meetings, the frequency and intensity of extraordinary taxation and coin debasement, and real interest spreads for public debt. It finds no evidence that the political institutions of Iberia were worse until at least 1650.

Mehling, van Asselt, Das, Droege, 10 December 2019

The new European Commission is considering the introduction of a ‘carbon border tax’. This column argues that the current EU legal framework and earlier policy proposals for border carbon adjustments offer a good indication of what such a measure might look like. If certain substantive and procedural guidelines are observed, a ‘carbon border tax’ along these lines can work and pass legal muster, but some important questions remain. Without a concrete mandate in the EU emissions trading system allowance directive to elaborate a border carbon adjustment, new legislation or an amendment will be necessary. 

Colantone, Stanig, 10 December 2019

Populist parties tend to share an anti-establishment stance and the claim to represent ordinary people versus the elites. This column, part of the Vox debate on populism, argues that despite these similarities, populist parties are fundamentally heterogeneous and the drivers of their support tend to be diverse. It also argues that the economy and culture should be seen as tightly interrelated rather than mutually exclusive explanations for the populist surge, and that rather than being a simple ‘protest vote’, the surge might reflect a new political cleavage resulting from the contraposition of winners and losers from structural economic changes.

Burzyński, Deuster, Docquier, de Melo, 10 December 2019

There has been much discourse on how long-term climate change will affect human mobility over the course of the 21st century. This column estimates the long-term welfare and mobility responses to climate change. Depending on the scenario, climate change will force between 210 and 320 million people to move, mostly within their own countries. Massive international flows of climate refugees are unlikely, except under generalised and persistent conflicts. The poorest economies will be hardest hit, thus increasing global inequality and extreme poverty. 

Fischer, Groeger, Sauré, Yeşin, 09 December 2019

Global imbalances are at the core of today’s trade tensions, but official current account statistics may not be sufficient to assess the external positions of financially integrated economies. For instance, balance of payments accounting standards do not prescribe the recording of retained earnings on portfolio equity investment in the current account. This column argues that adjustments in income flows in equity investment therefore remain concealed in official current account statistics. In today’s financially integrated world with existing accounting standards, external adjustment mechanisms should be considered more broadly than just as an evolution of trade balance and exchange rate movements. 

Debrun, Ostry, Willems, Wyplosz, 09 December 2019

Knowing whether public debt is sustainable is as critical for economists analysing fiscal policy as for practitioners tasked with charting desirable policy paths. However, because sustainability is intimately related to the government’s ability to honour all its current and future obligations, it is purely forward-looking and assessing it amounts to making a prediction about an unknowable future. This column fleshes out three principles guiding the design and implementation of sound debt sustainability frameworks: relevance, simplicity and transparency.

Cummins, 08 December 2019

Sharp declines in the concentration of declared wealth occurred across Europe and the US during the 20th century. But the rich may have been hiding much of their wealth. This column introduces a new method to measure this hidden wealth, in any form. It finds that between 1920 and 1992, English elites concealed 20-32% of their wealth. Accounting for hidden wealth eliminates one-third of the observed decline of top 10% wealth share over the past century.

Brück, Cuesta, Gentilini, de Hoop, Lee, Peterman, 07 December 2019

Rigorous research in humanitarian emergencies is not only feasible but also necessary to determine what constitutes effective assistance in these settings. This column introduces a Special Issue of the Journal of Development Studies which demonstrates that research establishing causal effects is vital for the design of efficient and effective social protection in settings of fragility and displacement. 

Keywood, Baten, 07 December 2019

Due to their lower standards of living, Eastern and Central Eastern Europe are losing their young, well-educated and energetic population to the West. The scarcity of data that reach far enough back in time makes it challenging to explain the longstanding East–West differences. This column explores the relationship of economic development with human capital – specifically, elite numeracy – and violence. It concludes that the absence of violence played a significant role in economic development through elite numeracy formation.

Dijkstra, Poelman, Rodríguez-Pose, 07 December 2019

Support for Eurosceptic parties and the rise of populism threaten not only European integration, but peace and prosperity on the continent more broadly. Rather than attributing their rise to the individual characteristics of voters – such as age or income – this column takes a different approach. Using results from recent legislative elections to map the geography of EU discontent, it finds that purely geographical factors – chiefly, long-term economic and industrial decline – are the fundamental drivers of anti-European voting.

Kashiwagi, 06 December 2019

With more frequent and severe natural disasters, demand is growing for governments to support affected firms in their recovery. This column investigates the impact of subsidies after the Great East Japan Earthquake. It finds that capital subsidies were effective for the retail sector, but not in the manufacturing or other service sectors. The results suggest that the heterogeneity comes from variations in the degree of private support across sectors rather than variations in supply chain disruption.

Kopiec, 06 December 2019

Research shows that individual spending behaviour is heterogeneous across households and that it depends on characteristics such as income and wealth. Using Italian data, this column shows that household heterogeneity plays a crucial role in the propagation of fiscal expenditure shocks. Household inequality gives rise to a rich set of new channels that propagate government expenditures shocks through consumer spending, which are related to households’ balance sheets and monetary-fiscal interactions. The values of the fiscal multiplier diverge from those predicted by the standard macroeconomic framework and the difference is particularly large at the zero lower bound.

Boone, Revoltella, 06 December 2019

For the past two years, global growth outcomes and prospects have steadily deteriorated, while investment growth has collapsed. This is particularly the case in Europe. This column argues that reducing policy uncertainty, rethinking fiscal policy, and acting vigorously to address the challenges raised by digitalisation, climate change, and persistent inequalities all have the potential to reverse the current slippery trend and lift investment and living standards. 

Bergeaud, Cette, Lecat, 05 December 2019

In most advanced economies, both real long-term interest rates and productivity growth have decreased since the early 1990s. The column demonstrates how a circular relationship links these two indicators. Until there is a technology shock, the relationship will converge to an equilibrium in which growth and interest rates are both low.

Tamura, 05 December 2019

An increasing number of goods and services employ AI-related technology. But for most consumers, determining which products use artificial intelligence remains a challenge. This column suggests that the spread of new technology may be delayed when information about it is difficult to communicate, and argues that standards governing artificial intelligence labelling can help to both educate consumers and promote the technology’s dissemination.

Slacalek, 05 December 2019

Many economic models assume that households have up-to-date information. This column relaxes this assumption to see how this affects consumption at the household and aggregate level. A model that assumes that households only occasionally update their information about macroeconomic quantities better fits the micro and macro data, and can explain the fact that consumption reacts little to the announcement of a fiscal stimulus but substantially to the actual receipt of a stimulus payment.

Huang, Panizza, Varghese, 04 December 2019

Establishing the presence of a causal link from public debt to economic growth and investment has proved challenging. This column uses data for nearly 550,000 firms in 69 countries to show that government debt affects corporate investment by tightening the credit constraints faced by private firms. Higher levels of public debt increase the correlation between investment and cashflow for firms that are more likely to be credit constrained – i.e. unlisted, small, and young firms – but appear to have no effect on the correlation between cash and investment of listed, well-established, and large firms.

Aldasoro, Ferrara, Langfield, Liu, Ota, 04 December 2019

Macroprudential regulation is in vogue, but liquidity requirements are typically seen only as a microprudential tool. This column shows how a macroprudential approach to liquidity requirements could improve regulatory efficiency. By concentrating liquidity in systemically important banks, financial stability can be enhanced without increasing aggregate requirements.

Adam, Weber, 04 December 2019

Consumer goods prices systematically depend on product age. This column analyses this dependence and shows that relative prices tend to fall during the product lifecycle. It uses insights from a sticky price framework to demonstrate how these price trends matter for aggregate inflation and the optimal inflation rate

Gros, Capolongo, 03 December 2019

The ECB is running out of options for addressing its twin problems of low inflation and negative interest rates, leading some, including outgoing President, Mario Draghi, to call on fiscal policy measures to be used. This column argues that a fiscal expansion would be ineffective in raising interest rates or inflation for any length of time. Not only would the effect be temporary, but the scale of expansion needed to effect any substantial change would be unfeasible. 

Somoza, Terracciano, 03 December 2019

Policymakers are concerned about the stability of private digital currencies and protecting the consumers who use them. This column, part of VoxEU debate on the future of digital money, proposes locking stablecoins into an ETF-like structure with restrictions on basket composition. Stablecoin providers would be functionally similar to ETF sponsors, and stablecoins would become a new vehicle for traditional fiat currencies. 

Buti, Jaeger, Pichelmann, 03 December 2019

A full understanding of the political economy roots of the major economic, social, and political divides that have emerged in our societies is essential to devise the right policy responses and to properly calibrate them in an environment of possibly protracted economic weakness. This column summarises the proceedings of DG ECFIN’s Annual Research Conference 2019, which zoomed in on some of the most pertinent challenges economic policymakers face today: (i) bringing productivity to people and places; (ii) making markets work for all, not just the few; (iii) future-proofing fiscal policies when going green and digital; and (iv) safeguarding Europe’s role in the global economy.

Furceri, Loungani, Ostry, 02 December 2019

Free trade has contributed to a ‘great convergence’ of emerging market countries toward incomes in industrialised nations in recent decades. It is less clear whether free mobility of capital across national boundaries has conferred similar benefits. This column presents evidence suggesting that the gains in average incomes have been – at best – small, while increases in income inequality and the decline in the labour share of income have been significant. Financial globalisation thus poses far more difficult equity-efficiency trade-offs than free trade and should be at the centre of debates about how to make globalisation inclusive.

Danielsson, Macrae, 02 December 2019

Financial institutions are increasingly outsourcing information technology to the cloud, motivated by efficiency, security, and cost. This column argues that the consequence is likely to be short- and medium-term stability at the cost of the increased likelihood of catastrophic systemic events. Cloud providers are systemically important and should be regulated as such.

Branstetter, Kovak, Mauro, Venâncio, 01 December 2019

China’s rise as an export powerhouse has affected labour markets across the Western world, but the effects appear to differ dramatically across countries. This column evaluates the impact of rising Chinese exports on Portuguese employment, finding that labour market effects are shaped by indirect competition and labour market regulation.

Events

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