August 2020

Gans, 31 August 2020

Standard epidemiological models that show how infection rates in the population rise and then fall assume that people do not understand what’s going on. When people react to infection rates by changing behaviour, the model’s predictions are no longer valid. This column explains why that can mean that pandemics don’t rage out of control but become something more endemic. In particular, epidemiological models that incorporate rational economic agents tend to predict that pandemics may move towards a steady state for a significant period of time.

Laeven, 31 August 2020

Social distancing policies are necessary from a public health perspective but can have negative effects on economic activity. Using a newly constructed dataset of sectoral dependence on the use and sale of intermediate goods, this column investigates whether social distancing policies can have negative spillover effects on sectors that are not directly targeted due to input-output linkages. It finds that firms that depend on the sale of intermediate goods to sectors affected by social distancing measures are more affected by the crisis.

Eckert, Mikosch, Stotz, 31 August 2020

The corona crisis has hit the Swiss economy hard, with survey results showing that corporate profits and demand expectations collapsed and uncertainty about future business prospects has risen sharply. This column uses unique company bankruptcy data for Switzerland to assess the current bankruptcy trend using the concept of excess mortality. The corona crisis is not causing a wave of bankruptcies for the time being, but it is still too early to give the all-clear.

Boehl, Goy, Strobel, 30 August 2020

Despite their pivotal role, the macroeconomic effects of large-scale asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, remain open to debate. This column provides insights from a structural investigation of the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing programme during the global financial crisis. In line with the general consensus, the results suggest that asset purchases substantially eased borrowing conditions and facilitated new investment. The rise in investment led to an increase in the productive capacity which, in turn, lowered firms’ marginal cost. These supply-side effects dominated demand-side effects in determining the response of inflation, leading to a mild disinflationary effect.

Gottlieb, Grobovšek, Poschke, Saltiel, 29 August 2020

Many countries have implemented social distancing and lockdown policies to tame the spread of Covid-19. This column discusses the potential GDP and employment effects of lockdown policies for a broad cross-section of countries ranging in income per capita from Niger to Luxembourg. It shows that the employment and GDP effects of lockdown policies are U-shaped in income per capita. While workers in rich countries have a substantially higher ability to work from home, which mitigates declines in employment and GDP, poor countries concentrate employment and value-added in essential sectors that are not shut down. Middle-income countries see the largest declines as they feature relatively large employment shares in non-essential sectors and relatively low work from home ability

Hausmann, Schetter, 29 August 2020

Fighting COVID-19 has forced countries around the world to make trade-offs between lives and livelihoods. But in countries where many people already live at or close to subsistence, the alternatives are more excruciating yet. This column analyses cases in which the trade-off is actually between lives and lives; in other words, countries that can save their populations from the pandemic or from deprivation, but not both. The authors consider ways to alleviate these trade-offs, as well as their implications for policy – both national and international.

Cosaert, Theloudis, Verheyden, 28 August 2020

COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures have affected working hours and household income, with an unequal effect on women and men. The collective model of the household has hitherto ignored distinctions between private versus joint activities by parents in household time allocation. This column examines the evolving costs and benefits of togetherness, using Dutch data for 2009–2012, and speculates on how lockdown policies may affect togetherness and household welfare. Joint leisure and childcare generate a loss of flexibility in the labour market, and joint childcare prevents specialisation, generating tension between parental childcare quality and quantity.

Mion, Opromolla, Ottaviano, 28 August 2020

Understanding whether certain jobs are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a complex question that can be approached in numerous ways. Clarifying what factors make particular occupations within particular firms suitable for different people is at the heart of this discussion. This column presents evidence from a study untaken in Portugal, focusing on domestic versus internationally active firms. The results indicate that firms which are more international provide better career paths for managers, perhaps due to better overall managerial practices.

Beck, Hoseini, 28 August 2020

The high degree of informality in developing countries means most low-income workers have not been able to work from home during the Covid crisis or benefit from employment protection. Despite limited fiscal space and limited access to international financial markets, many developing country governments have implemented support programmes for households and firms. This column assesses the impact of an emergency household loan programme in Iran on consumption. It finds that the loans are positively related with higher consumption of non-durable and semi-durable goods, with no significant effect on the consumption of durables or asset purchases, suggesting that the emergency loans were predominantly used for their intended purpose.

Guinnane, Martínez-Rodríguez, 28 August 2020

The decline in public corporations in the recent past has raised some concerns due to their perceived contribution to economic growth and lesser tendency to engage in corruption. This column utilises historical time series data from Spain along with complementary data from countries including Germany to examine patterns in the choice of enterprise form and evaluate the motives behind their adoption. It concludes that some of the seemingly new patterns in enterprise form may essentially be similar to those already seen in the past, making close analysis of historical data very important.  

Acharya, 28 August 2020

In a new book based on his time as deputy governor of India's central bank, Viral Acharya warns that India's bloated public sector is strangling growth. The economy urgently needs institutional reform, he tells Tim Phillips - and now is the perfect time to do it.

Viral's book is called Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India, and is published by Sage India.

Ilzkovitz, Dierx, 27 August 2020

With the increased globalisation and digitalisation of the economy and the challenge of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the future of EU competition policy is up for debate. In response, the European Commission is reviewing its enforcement practice and has brought forward new policy initiatives. In an effort to improve the evidence base of its activities, the Commission has become increasingly active in evaluating the economic effects of its competition policy interventions. This column summarises the main lessons learnt from this work and sets out areas for further research.

Bossavie, Cho, Heath, 27 August 2020

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh in April 2013 is widely considered the worst accident in the history of the garment industry. It intensified local and international attention paid to working conditions in the industry and resulted in a series of reforms, including a minimum wage and high-profile but voluntary audits examining safety. This column studies the effects of those reforms on workers and finds that while working conditions increased after the reforms, women’s wages increased at first but fell in the longer run, as did the likelihood of having a formal work contract.

Bergemann, Bonatti, Gan, 26 August 2020

The rise of large digital platforms — from Facebook, Google, and Amazon in the US to JD, Tencent, and Alibaba in China — has led to the unprecedented collection and commercial use of individual data. This column argues that a central, underappreciated feature of those data is their social aspect: data captured from an individual user describe not only that individual, but other users with similar characteristics or behaviours. The policy implications of this insight include the need for privacy regulations focused less on personalised prices, and more on group-based price discrimination.

McCauley, 26 August 2020

On 23 March 2020, the Federal Reserve announced that it would buy investment grade corporate bonds, and on 9 April set the amount at up to $250 billion and extended the purchase to junk bonds. This column shows that these interventions succeeded in stabilising credit markets: prices lifted and dealing spreads narrowed. However, emergency lending powers provide an inadequate basis for Federal Reserve operations in corporate bonds. In light of these findings, congressional authority to buy and to sell corporate bonds alongside US Treasuries would help to align Federal Reserve operations with what has become a capital-market centred financial system

Nocke, Whinston, 26 August 2020

Concentration measures such as the post-merger Herfindahl-Hirschman index as well as the merger-induced change in the index are usually key determinants in the review of horizontal mergers by competition agencies and courts. This column studies whether the magnitude of the efficiencies required for a merger not to hurt consumers may be related to the change and the level of the Herfindahl-Hirschman index. On the basis of theoretical analysis substantiated by empirical evidence, it finds that while the critical level of efficiencies depends on the change in the index, it is independent of level of the index. Hence current guidelines should be changed so as to emphasise the change more and the level less.

Caffarra, Crawford, 26 August 2020

New law for a Mandatory Bargaining Code has been introduced in Australia to implement a decision that publishers should be compensated for use of news content by giant digital platforms. This reflects a policy view that the large disparity in bargaining power between platforms and individual publishers requires positive intervention to support quality journalism and news production.  This column argues that the Code as formulated by the ACCC has desirable properties in line with bargaining theory (including the use of ‘final offer arbitration’ as a backstop); it also leaves implementation of the regulation to the parties involved, not to an agency suffering from extreme asymmetric information. At a time when the design of regulation for ‘gatekeeper’ platforms is very much top of the agenda, this ‘decentralised regulation’ approach should be considered as part of a menu of possibilities in multiple settings. 

Saxell, Takalo, Izhak, 25 August 2020

There is a fundamental trade-off between incentives to develop new drugs and access to cheaper medicines. How should patent rights be designed in the pharmaceutical industry to optimally balance this trade-off? This column suggests that longer patent terms are an inefficient way of promoting the development of new drugs since they also increase incentives for challenging patents. Government policies should make patents shorter-lived, but broader in scope.

Goto, Fujita, Souma, 25 August 2020

The current economic crisis calls for a pandemic-resistant supply chain network in the post-COVID-19 era. This column investigates the Japanese supply chain network at the firm level and discusses its dynamics, resilience, and robustness. It shows that the network can be characterised by a ‘walnut’ structure, with an intricately connected centre surrounded by upstream and downstream components. Despite the maturity of the Japanese economy, the network is actively changing, with fast-growing firms becoming more connected and slow-growing firms moving to the periphery. Fully understanding this structure will be crucial in making supply chain networks resilient to pandemics in the future.

Montag, Sagimuldina, Schnitzer, 25 August 2020

To combat the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the German government unveiled an unprecedented stimulus package on 3 June which, among other policies, includes a temporary reduction of value-added tax rates between July and December 2020. The aim of this policy is to temporarily lower prices and stimulate consumption through higher inflation expectation. This column presents the first estimates of the pass-through rate for a major sector of the economy. It shows that for retail fuel, pass-through was fast, substantial, but incomplete, with pass-through rates depending on the competiveness of the relevant market.

Arezki, Djankov, Nguyen, Yotzov, 24 August 2020

It is often argued that democracy is the least imperfect form of government mainly because of the existence of a ‘self-correcting’ mechanism stemming from voice and accountability embedded in democracies. Using text analysis from about a billion newspaper articles in 28 languages, this column shows that the intensity of reform chatter increases during economic downturns and that the increase is more significant in democracies. During downturns, democracies appear to benefit disproportionately from changing popular attitudes translating into actual reforms.

Delle Monache, Petrella, Venditti, 24 August 2020

The fast rebound of US stock prices following the Covid-19 shock has reignited discussions over ‘frothiness’ in stock markets. This column examines how asset prices are affected by drastic shocks to the real economy, and what factors drive this relationship. Evidence from the investigation suggests that, from a longer-term perspective, high asset valuations may reflect more than just investor optimism. The greater expected income, in comparison to government bonds, could be the key as to why investors are continuing to trust in the stock market, irrespective of the turbulent wider economic climate.

Comunale, 23 August 2020

Historically, Lithuania has had very high suicide rates, especially among its male population. This column aims to shed light on possible factors linked to the high suicide rates in the Baltic states and specifically in Lithuania. Factors with the strongest links to suicide rates in the region include GDP growth, demographics, alcohol consumption, psychological factors and climate temperature. For Lithuania specifically, other macroeconomic variables (especially linked to the labour market) may also matter. The percentage of rural population is not a key robust factor.

Imas, Madarász, 22 August 2020

Protectionism, nationalism, left- and right-wing populism are on the rise all over the world. This column tests the premise that the value a person attaches to consuming an object or possessing an attribute increases in others' unmet excess desire for it, terming this behaviour as mimetic dominance seeking. On the basis of two experiments designed to provide direct evidence of this behaviour, it finds that mimetic dominance leads to a reluctance to trade and a direct preference for objects that become scarcer, with the latter generating a motive for exclusion.

Ngai, 21 August 2020

Low-skilled workers are concentrated in sectors with fast productivity growth, so why isn't their pay rising? Rachel Ngai tells Tim Phillips that one explanation is in how low-skilled workers are reallocated between different sectors. 

Heckman, Liu, Lu, Zhou, 21 August 2020

Research has shown that home visiting programmes are effective and relatively low cost compared to other early childhood programmes. This column evaluates the impacts of one such programme targeted at left-behind children in rural China, based on the influential Jamaica Reach Up and Learn programme. The programme substantially improves child language, cognitive, fine motor, and socioemotional skills, with 90% of these gains come from boosting child skills, and the rest coming from improving the utilisation of existing skills. Growth profiles reveal that China REACH is on track to reach or exceed the growth profiles of the highly successful Jamaica Reach Up programme.

Beetsma, Burgoon, Nicoli, de Ruijter, Vandenbroucke, 21 August 2020

Building a large and durable consensus for mutual assistance policies in the EU is challenging. Even in times of crisis, member states express different preferences, and policies must reckon with democratic politics. This column presents evidence from a randomised survey to assess support for various EU budgetary assistance packages across five member states. A majority of packages are supported in all countries, although individual design features have significant effects on public approval. Importantly, it is possible to design packages such that they obtain majority support across all sampled countries, a key condition for success with policies of this kind.

Gordon, Sayed, 21 August 2020

The benefits of the ‘ICT revolution’ are readily seen in labour productivity statistics for the US, but a similar acceleration of productivity growth was not seen in Western Europe. This column argues that most of the 1995-2005 US productivity growth revival was driven by ICT-intensive industries producing market services and computer hardware. In contrast, the EU10 experienced a 1995-2005 growth slowdown due to a paucity of ICT investment, a failure to capture the efficiency benefits of ICT, and performance shortfalls in specific industries.  After 2005 both the US and the EU10 suffered a growth slowdown, indicating that the benefits of the ICT revolution were temporary rather than providing a new permanent era of faster productivity growth. 

Ahlfeldt, Barr, 20 August 2020

The economic case for supertall buildings has been challenged since the late 19th century. Critics urge policymakers to control vertical growth, arguing that skyscrapers are often built to satisfy oversized egos rather than serving economic purposes. This column contends that economic fundamentals are strong predictors of building heights. Height competition can lead to extremely tall buildings that aim at pre-empting rivals, but these are the exception rather than the rule. In regulating heights, policymakers should focus on balancing the positive and negative externalities associated with tall buildings.

Guerreiro, Rebelo, Teles, 20 August 2020

How should public policy respond to the impact of automation on the demand for labour? This column uses a theoretical model of automation to study whether it is optimal to tax robots. It finds that it is optimal to tax robots in the short run but not in the long run in order to protect current routine workers who cannot acquire non-routine skills, while incentivising those in the future to acquire non-routine skills. 

Aguirre, Danielsson, 20 August 2020

The most widely used programming languages for economic research are Julia, Matlab, Python and R. This column uses three criteria to compare the languages: the power of available libraries, the speed and possibilities when handling large datasets, and the speed and ease-of-use for a computationally intensive task. While R is still a good choice, Julia is the language the authors now tend to pick for new projects and generally recommend.

Gelos, Rawat, Ye, 20 August 2020

Emerging markets and developing countries are particularly vulnerable to economic shocks such as that posed by COVID-19, not least because of their often weaker monetary policy frameworks. This column discusses the extent to which these economies have been able to react to the crisis with a loosening of monetary policy. While the initial inflation level is an important determinant of a country’s ability to cut rates, additional institutional factors can also affect their ability to conduct countercyclical monetary policy during the crisis.   

De Bock, Drakopoulos, Goel, CFA, Gornicka, Papageorgiou, Schneider, Sever, 19 August 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented sharp reversal of portfolio flows in emerging and frontier markets, triggering concerns about financial stability and consequently, strong policy responses. This column uses a novel analytical framework, the capital-flows-at-risk methodology, to show that changes in global financial conditions tend to influence portfolio flows more during surges and reversals than in normal times. Furthermore, stronger domestic fundamentals do not necessarily lead to surges in portfolio flows but help mitigate outflows. Hence, the weaker growth outlook for emerging markets due to COVID-19 will worsen local currency flows, while global financial conditions will affect hard currency flows.

Doerr, Marin, Suverato, Verdier, 19 August 2020

A well-established observation in the trade literature is that conglomerate firms are more productive than single-product firms, but this appears to be at odds with findings in the finance literature that multi-segment firms trade at a discount and have lower Tobin’s Q than single-product firms, because internal capital markets misallocate funds across divisions within firms. This column develops a novel theory of misallocation within firms (rather than between firms) due to managers' empire building. Introducing an internal capital market into a two-factor model of multi-segment firms, it shows that more open markets impose discipline on competition for capital within firms, which explains why exporters exhibit a lower conglomerate discount than non-exporters. Testing the model with data on US companies, the authors establish that import competition reduces mis-allocation within firms. A one standard deviation increase in Chinese imports lowers the conglomerate discount by 32% and over-reporting of costs by up to 15%.

Duch-Brown, Grzybowski, Romahn, Verboven, 19 August 2020

Does the internet make international markets more integrated? And if not, what can we expect from recent EU policies that promote the Digital Single Market by banning restrictive distribution agreements such as geo-blocking? This column sheds light on these questions using detailed data for consumer electronics markets. The evidence indicates that online distribution channels are not more integrated than traditional bricks-and-mortar channels. Preventing geo-blocking practices would promote integration in the form of reduced international price differences, but this would mainly have distributional effects from consumers in low-income countries to those to high-income countries. 

Döttling, Kim, 19 August 2020

Socially responsible investing has been at the centre of recent regulatory scrutiny and academic debate. This column explores how retail investors’ preferences for socially responsible investments respond to market distress, as revealed within mutual fund flows during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results suggest that funds with the highest sustainability ratings experience sharper declines in flows. This suggests that there tends to be a shift away from sustainability among retail investors’ preferences in the face of an economic shock, highlighting a source of fragility in the increasingly popular socially responsible investment  market. 

Johannesen, 18 August 2020

How much do we bail out our family in a crisis? By matching financial transactions and administrative data in Denmark, Niels Johannesen comes up with an answer for Tim Phillips.

Fort, Pierce, Schott, 18 August 2020

Although it is well documented that US manufacturing employment has been falling since 1979, the causes of this trend are still unclear. This column argues that examining how and where the decline in US manufacturing employment occurs provides important insights in this regard. Using US Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database, it highlights three important trends post 1979 which suggest substantial increases in labour productivity, and an evolution of US manufacturing in line with US comparative advantage. 

Ki-moon, Berglöf, Brown, Clark, Machel, Robinson, 18 August 2020

With over one billion children still out of school because of the lockdown, there is now a real and present danger that the public health crisis will create a COVID generation who lose out on schooling and whose opportunities are permanently damaged. Yet at the very time we need extra resources, education funding is under threat. This letter from over 275 world leaders calls on the G20, the IMF, the World Bank and regional development banks and all countries to recognise the scale of the crisis, and proposes three initiatives to get the most disadvantaged and vulnerable back into education and enable them to catch up.

Blesse, Bordignon, Boyer, Carapella, Heinemann, Janeba, Raj, 18 August 2020

The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has the potential to change the institutional design of the European Union (EU). This column analyses survey data asking parliamentarians from France, Italy, and Germany about their stances on a broad range of reform issues covering fiscal and monetary policies as well as EU governance mechanisms. It finds that in general, party membership is quantitatively more important than nationality in determining political stances. Further, while national parliaments still differ on many policies, a broader consensus emerges for reforms on EU institutions such as providing the EU parliament with the right of proposing new legislation.

Klenow, Li, 18 August 2020

There is much concern that the Covid-19 crisis may be particularly tough for relatively young firms to survive. Given that much innovation is attributed to young firms, this could then harm overall productivity. This column uses the dynamics of various firms’ market shares in order to infer their growth contributions. Compared to studies focusing on patents and R&D spending, the authors find a much bigger role for new and young firms in terms of accounting for productivity growth. Protecting young firms is therefore essential to mitigating the productivity damage of Covid-19.

Goulas, Megalokonomou, 17 August 2020

During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, Greece eased its high school attendance policy despite few cases being reported among children of high school age. This column examines the relationship between the relaxed attendance policy and absences, academic performance, and neighbourhood income. Students of higher prior performance took more absences, while students of lower prior performance kept going to school. Prior performance is positively associated with neighbourhood income, suggesting that students in poorer neighbourhoods may be less likely to follow school distancing guidelines during a pandemic. The relaxed attendance policy is associated with decreased performance for students that take more absences.

Funke, Klenert, 17 August 2020

COVID-19 and climate change share a marked similarity: the worst damage is only averted when society commits to decisive and early action in the face of a seemingly abstract threat. There are good reasons to believe climate change will be even harder to defeat, even though – or precisely because – there is more time to confront it. This column argues that the current pandemic is an exceptional opportunity to understand where the real challenges lie for progression on climate action – in garnering political will and public support. It provides key policy suggestions for the next wave of climate action. 

Galofré Vilà, Meissner, McKee, Stuckler, 16 August 2020

Many Western countries pursued deep austerity measures in response to debts from the financial crisis of 2007-2008, and may again do so in the wake of COVID-19 stimulus packages. This column reviews how in the early 1930s, austerity measures worsened social suffering and contributed to political unrest paving the way for the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. The authors argue that the absence of a coherent response to social suffering from the Weimar government worsened the slump, contributing to the radicalisation and polarisation of the German electorate.

Fujita, Hamaguchi, 16 August 2020

Unlike previous infectious diseases, which tended to be connected to poor environments, the epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic have been the wealthiest metropolises of industrialised countries. This column argues that the population concentration in large cities has provoked an even more intensive agglomeration of social and economic activities in high-interaction environments, driving urban development but also fostering conditions for the spread of COVID-19. Globalisation further promoted concentration, migration, and inequality, which might hamper the restructuring of the post-pandemic global economy if effective international coordination and a multi-core international regime that values diversity and competition in creative endeavours continue to be threatened.    

Cherif, Hasanov, 15 August 2020

Lockdown measures, contact tracing, and widespread testing have dominated the policy responses of many countries to the Covid-19 crisis. This column argues that a universal testing and isolation policy is the most viable way to vanquish the pandemic. Its implementation requires an epidemiological, rather than clinical, approach to testing, and requires the ramping up of testing kit production in order to achieve a scale and speed that the market alone would fail to provide. The estimated cost of universal testing is dwarfed by its return, mitigating the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Basten, Ongena, 15 August 2020

Recently, the debate around potential changes to financial intermediation with the introduction of new technology or FinTech has gained pace. Using data on bank responses to household mortgage applications through a Swiss web platform, this column contributes to the debate by showing how online platforms can allow smaller banks to expand to areas beyond their branch network. It finds enormous potential for web platforms to shake up local lending competition, open up new ways for geographical diversification, and facilitate automation of lending decisions.

Petrova, 14 August 2020

Xenophobic attacks are on the rise around the world. Does social media help cause them? Maria Petrova tells tim Phillips about shocking new research from Russia.

Ahn, Hamilton, 14 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis in the US sent the unemployment rate soaring just as labour force participation crashed. A closer look at the data reveals several inconsistencies across labour force measures and the resulting unemployment estimates. This column highlights large discrepancies between the number of unemployment insurance claims and the count of unemployed in recent months, as well as in the number of people outside the labour force who wanted a job at the time. It argues that the actual unemployment rate was two percentage points higher prior to the pandemic than reported, and this gap has likely widened since the crisis.

Milasi, Bisello, Hurley, Sostero, Fernández-Macías, 14 August 2020

The growth in teleworking seen during the Covid-19 crisis has been strongly skewed towards highly paid occupations and white-collar employment, raising concerns about the emergence of a new divide between those who can work remotely and those who cannot. Nonetheless, enforced closures of economic activities due to confinement measures resulted in many new teleworkers amongst low and mid-level clerical and administrative workers who previously had limited access to this working arrangement. This column presents new estimates of the share of teleworkable employment in the EU and discusses factors determining the gap between actual and potential teleworking – including elements of work organisation. It also discusses how telework patterns could develop in the future and related policy implications.

Gapen, Millar, Uruçi, Sriram, 14 August 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, US policymakers must consider containment measures while weighing adverse health outcomes against forgone economic activity. This column uses panel data to evaluate alternative strategies to keep COVID-19 in check. Viable options to keep new case counts on a downward trajectory without economically costly shutdowns include more testing (at least 1.8 million per day for the US, used in isolation) and either mask requirements or indoor-dining restrictions. The US is nowhere near the point where herd immunity alone can control infections.

Gaubert, Itskhoki, 14 August 2020

Large firms play a pivotal role in international trade, shaping, at least in parts, the export patterns of their home countries This column studies the role of such individual superstar firms and their specific know-how and managerial talent in determining a country’s comparative advantage. Guided by a framework it finds that in France, sectors with more superstar firms export more compared to average sectors. The contribution of superstar firms to exports is particularly pronounced in the most export-intensive sectors. However, over the medium to long run, exports of such sectors tend to fall faster and reverse to the mean.

Kenkel, Mathios, Wang, 14 August 2020

The development of e-cigarettes has renewed interest in products that reduce the harm from tobacco use. This column argues that recent research appearing to demonstrate a link between e-cigarettes and respiratory disease does not tell the whole story. Adopting a more flexible empirical specification that takes into account whether people are never smokers, former smokers or current smokers, the authors find no evidence that current or former e-cigarette use is associated with respiratory disease among respondents who had never smoked combustible tobacco. Moreover, while dual users are more likely to develop respiratory disease than non-smokers, there do not appear to be significant differences between dual users and smokers.

Juhasz, Squicciarini, Voigtländer, 13 August 2020

The diffusion of technologies across firms is a key driver of aggregate productivity growth. A large number of studies focus on technological adoption, the speed of diffusion, and emerging productivity differences across firms. This column examines the adoption of mechanised cotton spinning in France during the Industrial Revolution to study the short-run and long-run effects on firm productivity. It finds that firm productivity gains from this technology materialised slowly in the 19th century, consistent with the need to establish the complementary organisational practices to efficiently operate the cotton mills.

Zhan, Bolwijn, Casella, Santos-Paulino, 13 August 2020

Global value chains will undergo a drastic transformation in the decade ahead. The change will be driven by a push for greater supply chain resilience due to COVID-19, which adds to existing pressures from the technology revolution, growing economic nationalism, and the sustainability imperative. Based on UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2020, this column argues that the global trade and investment landscape will be reshaped by the restructuring of global chains, build-up of new regional chains, and distributed manufacturing. While these will present daunting challenges, they will also offer ample opportunities for firms and states alike and will lead to a GVC-development paradigm shift.

Nogues-Marco, Herranz-Loncán, Aslanidis, 13 August 2020

The adoption of the euro, for all its flaws, constituted a giant step in the process of full integration between the European economies. It also reproduced at a larger scale the dynamics of monetary unification that took place during the 19thcentury. This column presents a historical study of Spain, evaluating the changes in the internal money market. The analysis suggests that transaction costs undertook a sustained decline over the 19th century. By contrast, the efficiency of the market did not improve before the 1880s, perhaps due to a shift in monetary leadership changes in national economic geography.

Bergant, Grigoli, Hansen, Sandri, 12 August 2020

The vulnerability of emerging markets to global financial shocks leads to recurrent calls for policymakers to deploy additional policy tools besides relying on exchange rate flexibility. This column presents evidence that a more stringent level of macroprudential regulation can considerably dampen the effects of global financial shocks on economic activity in emerging markets. A possible channel through which macroprudential regulation enhances macroeconomic resilience is by allowing for a more countercyclical monetary policy response. The authors do not find evidence that capital flow restrictions provide similar benefits.

Tomiura, Ito, Kang, 12 August 2020

Cross-border data flows are increasingly critical for modern firms, and the regulation of data poses a distinctly novel challenge for policymakers in the 21st century. This column presents survey data from Japan, investigating exactly which type of firm are most likely to be affected by regulations surrounding the international exchange of data. The results of the study suggest that new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and 3D printers are usually adopted by the most productive and innovative firms, and that hampering these firms with regulation may create harmful effects for the wider economy.

Ribeiro, 12 August 2020

Fear and imposed isolation due to COVID-19 have raised alarms about the impact on mental health on a global scale. The severe anticipated global recession and substantial increases in unemployment and indebtedness are both risk factors for suicide. This column reviews past similar scenarios of pandemics and recessions and its links to suicide. The recipe for preventing suicide amidst the COVID-19 pandemic includes investment in mental healthcare, such as providing suicide prevention services, and active employment policies.

McLaren, 11 August 2020

In the US, COVID-19 tends to magnify inequalities by disproportionately hitting minorities, particularly African Americans, who suffer from higher COVID-19 mortality rates. Higher rates of infection appear to be the cause rather than factors related to treatment. Using an indirect approach, this column uses census data to identify the socioeconomic factors that cause different racial groups to be differentially exposed to the virus. Very strong racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates are seen for African-American and First Nations populations. Occupation, income, poverty rates, or access to healthcare insurance appears to matter little. Pre-COVID-19 use of public transport, however, may be a significant factor.

Martínez Turégano, Marschinski, 11 August 2020

The EU’s falling share in global manufacturing has fuelled concerns about an overall loss of competitiveness. However, sectoral idiosyncrasies are strong and advise against a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy intervention. This column uses the World Input-Output Tables to decompose the value added for manufacturing value chains and study the drivers of EU’s relative decline. Competitiveness concerns are most warranted for electronics, a key sector for productivity and innovation. The EU’s global share in electronics has fallen even more than in total manufacturing, without evidence that specialisation in other segments of this value chain could significantly mitigate the trend.

Erten, Korinek, Ocampo, 11 August 2020

Recent market volatility has underlined how fickle international capital flows can be, and how important it is for emerging economies to have an adequate system of macroprudential policies in place. Capital controls that protect recipient countries from excessively risky types of flows are a crucial ingredient of such a system. This column motivates capital controls theoretically based on the existence of externalities from capital flows, describes recent empirical evidence on their use, and summarises the surrounding policy debate.

Brown, Ravallion, 10 August 2020

Income is linked to COVID-19 risk factors: poorer people are less likely to be able to socially distance or telework. However, higher-income areas tend to have more in-person interactions. This column disentangles the socioeconomic influences on COVID-19 behaviour and outcomes across the 3,000 counties of the US. Counties with higher overall income inequality tend to have higher infection rates. A higher population share of Black Americans and Hispanics is associated with higher infection rates. These effects do not fade over time from the first infection.

Ivaldi, Zhang, 10 August 2020

Television channels face a trade-off between the quality service (and number of viewers) and the revenue generated by advertisements. The market is said to be two-sided, with TV channels providing a platform through which advertisers and consumers are brought together during commercial breaks. This column examines the effects of the merge between two digital TV channels in France, and the regulatory intervention, on the quality of programming for viewers and the availability and cost of advertising space for commercial advertisers. 

Acharya, Borchert, Jager, Steffen, 10 August 2020

During the 2008/09 global financial crisis, European governments bailed out a large number of banks that were severely affected by the crisis. This column documents how the design of the bailout policy was determined by the fiscal capacity of the respective country. Fiscally weak countries recapitalised banks insufficiently, causing undercapitalised banks to shift their assets from loans to risky sovereign debt and engage in zombie lending, resulting in weaker overall credit supply, elevated risk in the banking sector, and, eventually, greater reliance on liquidity support from the ECB. Kicking the can down the road in 2008/09 thus sowed the seeds of the future banking crisis. These results have potential implications for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as, if the economic situation further deteriorates, banking sector stability is likely to be adversely affected.

Aucejo, French, Ugalde Araya, Zafar, 09 August 2020

New research is emerging which evaluates how COVID-19 has already impacted a generation of students. This column uses a survey of students at one of the largest public universities in the US to show that while pandemic has been broadly disruptive to students, this disruption has been much larger for lower-income students. This seems to be primarily driven by lower-income students being more likely to have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and more worried about the direct health risks from the virus.

Amore, Schwenen, 09 August 2020

Do CEOs always earn their pay? Using data on executive compensation along with accounting data for S&P 1500 firms,this column explores how swings in firm value that are unrelated to CEO actions (i.e. ‘luck’) affect CEOs’ opportunities in the labour market and the performance of firms that hire lucky CEOs. It finds that luck makes CEOs more likely to move to a new firm subject to low analyst coverage and in less competitive industries, where they receive a higher pay compared to industry peers. Hiring lucky CEOs harms firm performance due to a surge in operating costs and a poorer usage of corporate assets.

Mamaysky, 08 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has been characterised by extremely volatile markets and extremely negative news coverage. Using all relevant Reuters news articles from January to June 2020, this column shows that a 12-topic model effectively tracks the evolution of crisis news flow. In the early stages of the crisis, markets frequently reacted to uninformative news. This dynamic underwent a structural break in mid-March, likely due to Fed interventions, after which markets became more ‘normal’. Investors, lacking early hard evidence on the effects of the crisis, interpreted many news stories as being informative about future pandemic outcomes, even though they were not.

Ewens, Malenko, 08 August 2020

Corporate governance of privately held firms is becoming increasingly important given the rise in the number of private firms and recent governance scandals at such firms. This column examines the structure of the board of directors at venture-capital-backed startups and documents new facts about private-firm board size, the allocation of control, and board-composition dynamics. Within firms, board control shifts over time from venture capitalists to entrepreneurs. Independent directors play a previously under-explored ‘mediation’ role, mediating and resolving disputes between venture capitals and entrepreneurs.

Horvath, Kay, Wix, 08 August 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing public health interventions have disrupted economic activity in the US. This column examines the impact of the COVID-19 shock on the use and availability of consumer credit through March 2020. In counties affected by the pandemic, creditworthy borrowers reduced their credit use, but riskier borrowers increased their outstanding credit card balances. While both pandemic severity and non-pharmaceutical interventions negatively affected credit use, the pandemic itself was the main driver. Banks reduced the credit limits and increased the APR spreads of newly issued cards to riskier borrowers, consistent with a flight-to-safety response.

Acharya, 07 August 2020

Viral Acharya tell Tim Phillips that the action to save Europe's financial sector after 2008 has delayed reform in the banking sector - creating a decade of lending to zombie firms that has stifled economic growth.

Goodhart, Tsomocos, Wang, 07 August 2020

A sizeable proportion of enterprises, especially SMEs, in receipt of financial assistance from the government will fail to repay. This column asks whether, and to what extent, it may be beneficial to apply a screening mechanism to deter those mostly likely to fail to repay from seeking financial assistance in the first place. The answer largely turns on the relative weights attached for the objectives of stabilisation as compared with allocative efficiency.

Aizenman, Ito, 07 August 2020

The political-economy trilemma, introduced by Dani Rodrik (2000), asserts that the three policy goals of national sovereignty, democracy, and globalisation, cannot all be achieved to the full extent simultaneously. This column investigates this trilemma by developing indexes that measure the extent of attainment of the three factors during 1975-2016. It finds that there is a linear relationship between globalisation and national sovereignty (i.e. a dilemma) for industrialised countries, while all three indexes are linearly correlated (i.e. a trilemma) for developing countries.

Gropp, Ongena, Rocholl, Saadi, 07 August 2020

Recessions are periods of low opportunity costs for time and resources, and hence can facilitate a productivity-enhancing reallocation of resources and improve productivity growth. However, recessions can also slow productivity growth by intensifying credit frictions, for instance, through the accumulation of legacy assets in the banking sector. This column investigates the interaction between these two channels in the recent banking crisis and shows that US regions with more restructuring of inefficient banks during the post-Global Crisis recession experienced higher productivity growth in the real sector in subsequent years.

Corsetti, Duarte, Mann, 07 August 2020

A persistent challenge for the ECB has been meeting the various needs and demands of euro area member states. This column provides empirical and quantitative evidence suggesting that the transmission of the ECB’s monetary policy varies significantly across member states. For variables such as those related to housing and labour markets, the dispersion of responses to a monetary shock is twice as large as the average response. The results also suggest that the disruption to market integration brought about by the COVID-19 crisis may create further challenges to conducting monetary policy in the euro area.

Martinez-Miera, Repullo, 06 August 2020

The question of whether low interest rates foster or hamper financial stability has recently received ample attention both from policy as well as the academic circles,  leading to the development of a large, mostly empirical, literature on the topic. This column presents a framework to analyse the relevance of the financial sector’s market structure in answering this question. It shows that in markets with low competition lower safe rates result in less risk-taking by financial intermediaries, while in highly competitive markets lower safe rates result in higher risk-taking.

Li, Ponticelli, 06 August 2020

The lack of an efficient and independent judicial system can impede economic development by negatively affecting firms’ ability to invest, innovate, and reallocate capital towards more productive projects. This is indeed a concern for China. This column exploits the introduction of specialised bankruptcy courts in different Chinese cities between 2007 and 2017 to examine its effects on the local economy. Specialisation leads to faster resolution of bankruptcy cases, especially for state-owned firms. It also increased local firms’ average product of capital and decreased the share of labour employed in zombie-intensive industries compared to cities where insolvency is still resolved exclusively by civil courts.

Ahammer, Halla, Lackner, 06 August 2020

Social distancing is important to slow the community spread of COVID-19. This column studies the banning of mass gatherings, a comparably low-cost intervention. Exploiting exogenous variation in top-flight basketball and ice hockey games in the US, which arise due to the leagues' predetermined schedules, and the suspension of the 2019-20 seasons, it estimates the impact of indoor mass gatherings on COVID-19 mortality in affected US counties. The findings suggest that one additional mass gathering increased the cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths in affected counties by 9%.

Ilzetzki, 05 August 2020

Pupils in schools across the UK have lost up to 105 days of education due to school closures during the COVID-19 lockdown and a second wave of the pandemic, likely in the autumn, may disrupt education further. This column discusses the latest Centre for Macroeconomics survey, in which the panel predicted that the cost to UK economic growth in the will be minor to moderate. However, the panel was unanimous that school closures will increase inequality, with a large majority of the panel predicting a persistent increase in inequality. The panel also predicted harm to gender equality, with many predicting persistent increases in inequality along gender lines.

Presbitero, Wiriadinata, 05 August 2020

As interest rate-growth differentials (r-g) have turned negative in many countries, now could be the time for governments to pursue fiscal expansions. However, the downside risks of such policies should not be disregarded. Using a large sample of economies, this column finds that high and increasing public debts, especially when denominated in foreign currencies, can lead to more volatile r-g dynamics. In particular, this is associated with higher probabilities of r-g reversals, tail risks, and an increased exposure to domestic and global shocks. Policymakers should take note of these risks when designing future fiscal expansions.

Meltzer, 05 August 2020

The Court of Justice of the European Union recently delivered its verdict in the Schrems II case, ruling that the EU-US Privacy Shield is invalid. This column addresses the implications for adequacy and standard contractual clauses as well as the broader issue of how to balance national security and privacy goals. It concludes with observations about the potential impact of the decisions for the US and beyond and suggests some ways forward.   

Wolski, Wruuck, 05 August 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has had a substantial impact on labour markets throughout Europe. This column uses new data sources based on Google Trends reports in order to investigate the speed of transmission of the crisis into individuals’ concerns about becoming unemployed. The results indicate that this transmission is linked to corporate resilience. A stronger financial position of firms to withstand liquidity shortfalls may have helped to cushion the deterioration in job market sentiment during the outbreak of the pandemic, suggesting the importance of bolstering liquidity as a way of sheltering jobs. 

Goodhart, Schulze, Tsomocos, 04 August 2020

A decade of near-zero, and even negative, interest rates in advanced economies has both encouraged the continued accumulation of debt and a search for yield in riskier assets, while at the same time eroding bank profitability in the retail business. This column discusses some of the palliative measures that central banks have taken to offset the erosion of bank profitability, and raises the question of whether, and how, the longer-term implications of the excessive accretion of debt will be handled.

Felbermayr, Kirilakha, Syropoulos, Yalcin, Yotov, 04 August 2020

In recent years, economic sanctions have increasingly become ‘the tool of choice’ in responses to international political challenges related to geo-political conflicts. But are sanctions successful in achieving their purported objectives? And what are the economic costs of sanctions in a world that is increasingly interconnected with global value-chains and multinational enterprises?  This column introduces a new dataset of economic sanctions that covers all bilateral, multilateral, and plurilateral sanctions in the world from 1950 to 2016 that can be utilised to analyse sanctions policies.

Andrade, Gautier, Mengus, 04 August 2020

According to macroeconomic theory, managing inflation expectations is crucial for stabilising the economy. This is particularly true in times of crisis, when the nominal interest rate hits its lower bound. This column provides new evidence from France on how the inflation expectation channel operates in terms of consumer spending. The results suggest that households make consumption decisions based on the broad inflation regime that they expect, rather than with regards to the precise inflation forecast.

Campos, Eichenauer, Sturm, 03 August 2020

Economists have long assumed a virtuous cycle between integration and reforms. Implementing structural reforms helps maximise gains from integration, while the deepening of integration would foster reforms. This column discusses new research on European integration, its relationship with reforms and economic growth. It finds that integration triggered product market, but neither labour nor financial market, reforms. It also shows that, to understand the effects of reforms on economic growth, sectoral differences are less important than country heterogeneity. 

Basso, Rachedi, 03 August 2020

Advanced and developing economies are experiencing a swift process of population ageing that will shape both long-run macroeconomic trends, such as economic growth, as well as short-term business cycle fluctuations. Although the implications of population ageing on countries’ fiscal capacity have been extensively analysed, this column argues that secular shifts in demographics can also influence the effectiveness of fiscal policy as a demand-management tool. Using a New Keynesian model with a lifecycle structure,  it shows that output fiscal multipliers are larger in younger economies.

Altavilla, Gürkaynak, Motto, Ragusa, 03 August 2020

Mapping the impact of central bank policy communications onto yield curve changes  is important but challenging. This column studies policy communications of the ECB and maps these communications onto yield curve changes by studying the information flow on days when a monetary policy decision is communicated. Using the now publicly available Euro Area Monetary Policy Event-Study Database,it finds that different monetary policy measures affect different segments of the interest rate term structure, with policy rate changes mostly influencing the short end of the curve, quantitative easing measures more the long end, and forward guidance policies affecting intermediate maturities. 

Stiglitz, Rashid, 03 August 2020

From Latin America’s lost decade in the 1980s to the more recent Greek crisis, there are plenty of painful reminders of what happens when countries cannot service their debts. This column argues that a global debt crisis today would likely push millions of people into unemployment and fuel instability and violence around the world, and proposes a multilateral sovereign debt buyback facility which could be managed by the IMF.

Hanushek, Kinne, Lergetporer, Woessmann, 02 August 2020

Differences in student achievement are strongly related to both future individual earnings and national economic growth. Cultural traits that underlie intertemporal decision-making may affect how much students learn. Using data for close to two million students across 49 countries during 2000–2018, this column looks at levels of patience and risk-taking and its effect on student performance. A positive effect of patience and a negative effect of risk-taking can account for two-thirds of the cross-country variation in student achievement. Among migrant students, patience and risk-taking levels of the students’ countries of origin had remarkably similar effects on educational performance in the host country.

Pinotti, 01 August 2020

Understanding the economic incentives and consequences of crime is an important area of research with immense policy implications, but it is not without challenges. This column summarises new evidence from studies on the causes and consequences of crime in Italy, focusing on recent improvements that address challenges related to the measurement of crime and to the identification of a clear effect of crime on economic outcomes.

Le Moglie, Sorrenti, 01 August 2020

Criminal organisations invest vast sums of money within the legal economies of many countries worldwide. These investments provide criminal organisations with a powerful tool to raise forms of social consensus in some portions of the population. This column provides a characterisation of organised crime’s investment in Italy’s legal economy, a country historically plagued by the presence of criminal groups. The results indicate that during periods of economic and social downturn, organised crime may capitalise on the weaknesses of the institutional response to the crisis, consolidating and possibly expanding, its role as an investor in the legal economy.


CEPR Policy Research