Economic history

Terence Mills, Forrest Capie, Charles 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.

Thilo Huning, Nikolaus Wolf, 11 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.

Barry Eichengreen, Asmaa El-Ganainy, Rui Esteves, Kris 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.

Thor Berger, Per Engzell, 28 March 2019

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

Moshe Hazan, David Weiss, Hosny Zoabi, 23 March 2019

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

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