Europe's nations and regions

Felix Kersting, Iris Wohnsiedler, Nikolaus Wolf, 11 July 2020

Max Weber famously hypothesised that the Protestant work ethic fostered modern economic development. Does religion matter for economic success? This column revisits Weber’s hypothesis in the context of 19th-century Prussia. Protestantism did not matter for savings, literacy rates, or income levels across Prussian counties after 1870. Instead, there are large differences between ethnic groups, likely due to ethnic discrimination. Nationalism must be taken into account to understand Weber’s writings.

Paolo Falco, Sarah Zaccagni, 09 July 2020

Reminders to encourage social distancing have been used widely by the authorities around the world during the crisis. Based on a randomised controlled trial conducted in Denmark, this column shows what types of messages are most (and least) effective in convincing people to stay home. People’s good intentions often do not translate into the desired actions. Reminders significantly increase compliance with social distancing among people in poor health who face the greatest risks.

John Hassler, Per Krusell, Morten Ravn, Kjetil Storesletten, 07 July 2020

The responses to Covid-19 have had direct economic consequences of historic proportions. In reaction to this challenge, this column was prepared by four main authors and then discussed within a large group of research-active macroeconomists who also signed the final document. The column discusses the nature of the shock and the challenges for economic policy in Europe in the current and next phases of the crisis. In addition to outlining some basic principles for guiding domestic economic policy, it also calls for clear communication of policy to minimise uncertainty, for cooperation across countries along several dimensions, and for a clear and unified strategy in the management of national debts.

Maarten Verwey, Björn Döhring, 07 July 2020

Forecasters agree that the economic fallout from COVID-19 has caused the sharpest drop in economic activity in Europe and globally since WWII. Just how deep the drop of activity was in the second quarter, which sectors were most strongly affected by containment measures, and how swift the rebound will be as they are gradually lifted is still very uncertain. This column describes how the European Commission’s Summer 2020 interim European Economic Forecast now estimates a deeper drop of output in the second quarter of the current year than was anticipated earlier. The recovery is also now expected to be less swift than was projected in Spring, with differences across Member States set to be more pronounced. Minimising hysteresis and avoiding persistent economic divergences within the EU and euro area requires the rapid agreement and deployment of common support measures at the EU level. The risk otherwise is of significant distortions to the internal market and of even deeper divergences between countries that could ultimately threaten the smooth functioning of the monetary union. 

Ethan Ilzetzki, 06 July 2020

The UK economy is suffering its worst recession in centuries, with national income declining and unemployment rising at unprecedented rates. This column reports on the latest Centre for Macroeconomics survey, which reveals that despite this worrisome news, the panel is optimistic that the UK economy will recover to its pre-pandemic trend within five years or less, no worse than past UK recessions. Panellists emphasised that these predictions depend on the government effectively containing the spread of the virus and not reverting to austerity policies following the pandemic. The panel was split on the biggest risks to the pace of recovery, with firms’ productive capacity, scarring effects of unemployment, and a slow demand recovery cited as prominent concerns. 

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