April 2021

Fernandes, Forero, Maemir, Mattoo, 14 April 2021

Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2001, the US allowed duty-free entry of apparel products from eligible African countries. However, the end of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement in 2005 re-exposed African countries to significant international competition from Asia. This column finds that countries in Southern Africa and firms in Kenya that boomed during the period of high initial trade preferences went bust when the Multi-Fiber Arrangement expired. Subsequent growth was driven by new countries, notably Ethiopia, and by new firms in Kenya. These results are consistent with the complementary role of domestic reforms rather than the ‘infant industry’ benefits of trade preferences alone.

Felbermayr, Yotov, 14 April 2021

Whether or not large bilateral trade imbalances are a signal of non-reciprocal (or ‘unfair’) trade costs has been the subject of debate for some time, and was brought to the fore during President Trump’s time in office. This column argues that if the trading partners’ average trade costs with the whole of the world are taken into account, then the ‘unfair trade’ argument does not hold up. Using standard gravity modeling, the authors find that up to 88% of the variance in bilateral balances can be explained without making any reference to asymmetries in bilateral trade costs.

Cavallo, Powell, 13 April 2021

Latin America and the Caribbean suffered from several regional preconditions in advance of the Covid-19 crisis, including weak health infrastructure, low growth, and inefficient taxation. Now the pandemic threatens to leave the region with even higher poverty levels, greater inequality, and debts across virtually all countries. This column recognises the severity of these challenges but also provides reason to hope. If Covid-19 produces the political will to move the region towards better policy frameworks and execution, something positive could come of the crisis.

Gilhooly, Martinez, Watt, 13 April 2021

Emerging markets will be shaped by the US and Chinese policy stances in 2021. This column considers how the latest US fiscal package will interact with China’s policy normalisation and concludes that while President Biden’s American Rescue Plan should dominate a less expansionary stance in China, the boost to the global economy will be much more modest than one would typically expect. Specifically, the normalisation of goods consumption in developed markets and less import-intensive Chinese growth will curtail global goods trade, a key determinant of emerging market growth.

Dahl, Knepper, 13 April 2021

Around the globe, countries are experiencing a surge in the size and proportion of older individuals in their populations, leading to a ‘greying’ of the workforce. These older workers often encounter discrimination in the workplace. This column uses two unique data sources and two novel statistical approaches to show that economic downturns increase the incidence of illegal age discrimination. Whatever power disparities exist between workers and employers appear to grow during recessions, allowing employers to engage in higher levels of discrimination.

Krugman, 12 April 2021

Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell passed away on 4 April 2021. In this column, Paul Krugman describes the evolution of Mundell’s contribution to economic thought and policy, from his early pathbreaking models that remain the foundation of modern international macroeconomics to his later views that were more controversial and less influential in the profession. He also offers an explanation of how the man who brought Keynesian analysis to the open economy and highlighted the difficult tradeoffs in creating a currency area could come to be seen as the father of both supply-side economics and the euro.

Armand, Kim Taveras, 11 April 2021

When discussing the socioeconomic effects of climate change, little attention has been given to the role of the ocean. This column presents new evidence of the effect of ocean acidification on early-childhood mortality in low- and middle-income countries. Small increases in exposure to water acidity while in utero have significant effects on neonatal mortality. A closer look at possible mechanisms highlight the role of the ocean for nutrition and how overfishing represents an additional threat.

Costa-Font, Jiménez-Martín, Viola, 11 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on older Europeans living in nursing homes. This column finds evidence consistent with a 'fatal underfunding hypothesis', suggesting that the regional variation in nursing home fatalities during the first wave of the pandemic in Spain is associated with indicators of underfunding such as understaffing, larger nursing homes, and occupancy rates. Coordination failures both between healthcare and long-term care and between central and regional governments also contributed.

Andersen, Parise, Peijnenburg, 10 April 2021

The demographics of criminality are changing, with the share of crimes committed by older adults rising in developed countries. This column uses administrative data from Denmark to better understand late-in-life determinants of crime – specifically, severe health shocks. It finds that a cancer diagnosis can incite criminal activity, and argues that social support should be made widely available to vulnerable segments of the population in the wake of the Covid health crisis, when even people with previously clean records could find themselves drawn into illegal behaviour.

Angrist, Djankov, Goldberg, Patrinos, 09 April 2021

Human capital is a critical component of economic development. But the links between growth and human capital – when measured by years of schooling – are weak. This column introduces a better measurement, using a database that directly measures learning and represents 98% of the global population. The authors find that the link between economic development and human capital is strong when measured in this way. They also show that global progress in learning has been limited over the past two decades, even as enrolment in primary and secondary education has increased.

Gollier, 09 April 2021

The slow development of the vaccination campaign in continental Europe raises critical questions around who should be prioritised in the roll-out, the welfare costs of a delay, and the impact of ‘anti-vaxxers’ and vaccine nationalism. This column uses an age-structured SIR model to addresses these issues with a focus on France. A doubling of the speed of vaccination France achieved in March could reduce deaths in 2021 by a third, while the presence of senior anti-vaxxers may imply around 5,000 additional deaths among the senior pro-vaxxer population (based on 30% of the population refusing the vaccine). Vaccine nationalism is estimated to increase the global death toll by 20%.  

Edwards, Cabezas, 08 April 2021

The nominal exchange rate plays a dual role in macroeconomic adjustments – it is part of the transmission mechanism of monetary policy, and it also helps accommodate external and domestic shocks through its effect on the real exchange rate. This column uses disaggregated price index data from Iceland to test how exchange rate pass-through varies with the international tradability of goods and with the monetary policy framework. It shows that pass-through is significantly higher for tradables relative to nontradables. In addition, it finds that improvements in the credibility of the central bank are associated with declines in the exchange rate pass-through. 

Khanna, Liang, Mobarak, Song, 08 April 2021

Why do workers remain in low-productivity areas when they could experience wage gains elsewhere? While the literature has proposed a few explanations, including the high cost and risky nature of migration, this column uses the case of China to examine instead the role that pollution plays. It finds that severe pollution can induce workers to relocate from productive to unproductive regions, suggesting that pollution control, coupled with policies facilitating migration, has the potential to bring about extra economic gains in developing countries.

Breuer, Leuz, Vanhaverbeke, 08 April 2021

Firms often argue that disclosure and reporting regulations such as the EU Accounting Directive require them to reveal proprietary information, which discourages innovation. This column explores the effects of disclosure requirements on corporate innovation in the EU, and finds that forcing firms to publicly disclose their financial statements does indeed discourage innovative activities. At the industry level, positive information spillovers to competitors, suppliers, and customers appear insufficient to compensate for the negative direct effect on innovation. Indeed, the spillovers seem to concentrate innovation within a few large firms in a given industry.

Aizenman, Ito, Pasricha, 08 April 2021

Facing acute strains in the offshore dollar funding markets during Covid-19, the Federal Reserve implemented measures to provide US dollar liquidity. This column examines how the Fed reinforced swap arrangements and established a ‘financial institutions and monetary authorities’ repo facility in response to the crisis. Closer pre-existing ties with the US helped economies access the liquidity arrangements. Further, the announcements of the liquidity expansion facilities led to appreciation of partner currencies against the dollar, as did US dollar auctions by foreign central banks. 

Hayakawa, Koster, Tabuchi, Thisse, 08 April 2021

The economic and social consequences of investments in transport infrastructure generate heated academic and policy debates because they typically involve costly investments that are supposed to yield high payoffs. Particularly telling examples of large transport infrastructure investments are investments in high-speed rail. This column shows that the Shinkansen has had a substantial effect on Japan’s spatial distribution of employment. The relative position of municipalities within the network and their underlying location fundamentals are essential in understanding why the effects of an extensive infrastructure are positive or negative at the local level.  

Bellodi, Morelli, Vannoni, 07 April 2021

Populism is once more becoming a dominant feature of the political landscape in many countries, but little is known about its consequences for the quality of government. Using Italian municipal-level data, this column shows that populism has a negative impact on bureaucratic expertise and government performance, ultimately to the detriment of society and the economy. 

Carlino, Drautzburg, Inman, Zarra, 07 April 2021

The allocation of COVID-19 assistance under the American Rescue Plan has proven to be a point of significant partisan conflict between the Democratic administration and Republican governors. Motivated by partisan conflicts in the passage and implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this column suggests that the resolution of these disagreements will have significant consequences for the overall impact of the American Rescue Plan on the aggregate economy.

Gollier, 06 April 2021

Any global temperature target must be translated into an intertemporal carbon budget and an associated cost-efficient carbon price schedule. This column uses an intertemporal asset-pricing approach to examine the impact of uncertainties surrounding economic growth and abatement technologies on the dynamics of efficient carbon prices. It finds evidence of a positive carbon risk premium and suggests an efficient growth rate of expected carbon prices of around 4% plus inflation. This is lower than the growth rates found in many public reports and integrated assessment models, and justifies a higher carbon price today in order to satisfy the carbon budget.

Mimir, Sunel, 05 April 2021

Central banks in emerging economies deployed asset purchases for the first time to respond to the Covid-19 shock. Initial studies have found quantitative easing reduced long-term bond yields in these economies without creating bouts of currency depreciation. This column argues that asset purchases ease financial conditions in emerging economies by curbing capital outflows enabled by stronger bank balance sheets upon the asset intermediation by the central bank. If asset purchases cause a de-anchoring in inflation expectations, their effectiveness diminishes. Counterfactual policy experiments reveal that bond yield reductions from asset purchases during the pandemic could have persisted only under large-sized programmes that are representative of advanced economies.

Benghalem, Cahuc, Villedieu, 05 April 2021

The rise of alternative work arrangements – from temporary and part-time work to self-employment and online gig-economy jobs – has increased the take-up of part-time unemployment benefits in several countries. This column presents the results of a large experiment among recipients of unemployment-benefits insurance in France. It shows that increasing part-time unemployment benefits raises the propensity to work in non-regular jobs, but also extends the duration of compensated unemployment and unemployment insurance expenditure, suggesting that the lock-in effects of compensated unemployment associated with part-time benefits require precise evaluation.

Broadberry, de Pleijt, 04 April 2021

Little is known about the role of capital in economic growth before the late 19th century. This column provides the first estimates of investment and the capital stock in Britain as far back as 1270. Although important changes did occur in the role of capital, such as the growing importance of fixed capital relative to working capital and a substantial increase in the investment share of GDP, growth accounting analysis shows that productivity growth was more important than capital deepening in explaining the growth of output per head.

Ajzenman, Bertoni, Elacqua, Marotta, Méndez, 03 April 2021

Low-income students are more likely to attend schools with less-qualified teachers, expanding the very achievement gaps that public education should help reduce. Although the problem of teacher sorting is well-documented, policy responses have tended to focus on increasing compensation at hard-to-staff schools, which can be both expensive and ineffective. This column presents the results of a novel and low-cost strategy implemented nationwide by the government of Peru that successfully encouraged highly qualified teachers to apply for job openings in disadvantaged schools.

Briscese, Feltovich, Slonim, 03 April 2021

Companies often engage in activities of corporate social responsibility such as donating a share of profits to charity. Previous research suggests these initiatives can help attract and motivate workers, even at the cost of giving up part of their compensation. This column presents experimental evidence that shows, however, that when workers can choose who they want to work for, they prefer firms that offer a higher wage, and are attracted by a firm’s corporate social responsibility only when they consider their wage offer as ‘fair’. Further, if companies compensate donations to charity by reducing workers’ wages, this could ultimately harm workers’ wellbeing, depending on the worker’s views on the donations. 

de la Escosura, 02 April 2021

We measure inequality using income as a proxy for welfare. But are we mixing up "doing well" with "being well"? Leandro Prados de la Escosura thinks so, and his research contradicts much of what we think we know about the long-run trends in inequality.

Terzi, 02 April 2021

Inspired by conspicuous historical parallels, some scholars and journalists have argued that GDP growth and productivity might boom in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. This column reviews the evidence for and against the ‘Roaring Twenties’ hypothesis, concluding that some countries might well experience a forceful economic expansion. But policymakers should avoid complacency and make the most of the Recovery and Resilience Facility funds, combining them with wide-reaching structural reforms to improve economic prospects for the decade to come.

Ilzetzki, Jia, 02 April 2021

In his Spring Budget, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a super-deduction that allows companies to deduct 130% of expenses on capital on most investments on plant and equipment. This column reveals that the majority of the CfM panel of experts on the UK economy think this super-deduction will moderately aid the UK’s recovery from the Covid recession, but that the announced corporate tax increases also announced in the Budget will do moderate harm. Most panellists believe that the government is moving too fast on deficit reduction. 

Caprettini, Casaburi, Venturini, 01 April 2021

In the aftermath of World War II, the 1950 Italian land reform expropriated wealthy landowners and redistributed their land among rural workers, with substantial and long-lasting electoral rewards for the initiating Christian Democratic Party. The electoral effects of the reform were visible even 40 years later, arguably because the reform strengthened local Christian Democratic grassroots organisations and because Christian Democratic governments continued to invest in reform towns. The episode offers insights into the persistence of the electoral benefits of redistribution.

Kasinger, Krahnen, Ongena, Pelizzon, Schmeling, Wahrenburg, 01 April 2021

Once moratoria and other Covid-19 support measures are unwound, European banks will likely be confronted by a wave of non-performing loans. This column provides empirical insights on the current levels of such loans in Europe and draws lessons from previous financial crises for their effective treatment. It highlights the importance of early and realistic assessment of loan losses to avoid adverse incentives for banks. Secondary loan markets would help in this process and further facilitate bank resolution as laid down in the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, which should be upheld even in extreme scenarios.

Persaud, 01 April 2021

The servicing and rolling over of the public and private debt of middle-income countries is a major point of COVID-19-induced stress in the global economy. The G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative is a worthy initiative, but it does not address this issue. This column outlines three related steps that may help avoid a crisis. The centre-piece is recycling new and unused Special Drawing Rights for debt reduction through the repayment or repurchase of debt. Moral hazard can be addressed by reducing only those debts held by official creditors and up to an amount equal to fiscal expenditures relating to natural disasters – COVID-19 and climate change, principal amongst them.  

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