Politics and economics

Milena Djourelova, Ruben Durante, Gregory J. Martin, 25 July 2021

Newspapers advertising revenues have declined steadily over the past decades due to competition from online platforms. But what are the implications of this trend for the organisation and content of newspapers and for information local readers are exposed to? To shed light on these questions this column looks at the staggered introduction of Craigslist – the world’s largest platform for classified ads – in the US. It finds that the entry of Craigslist in a market led to considerable staff cuts by local newspapers, a decline in news coverage of politics, and a drop in readership. These changes also had electoral consequences, favouring partisan voting and ideologically extreme candidates.

Alvaro Calderon, Vasiliki Fouka, Marco Tabellini, 20 July 2021

More than 4 million African Americans moved from the South to the North of the United States during the Second Great Migration between 1940 and 1970. This column argues that the Great Migration and support for civil rights are causally linked. It finds that Black in-migration increased demand for racial equality and encouraged pro-civil rights activism in non-Southern counties. These effects were not only driven by Black voters, but also by progressive segments of the white population, who became aware of the brutal conditions prevailing in the South. Mirroring the changes in the electorate, non-Southern Congress members became more likely to promote civil rights legislation, but also grew increasingly polarised along party lines on racial issues.

Claire S. H. Lim, James Snyder, 13 July 2021

There are many ways to select and retain public officials in representative democracies, and considerable variation in the rules governing that process. This column discusses the literature on selection and retention procedures for low-information public office, and suggests a conceptual framework for assessing the advantages and disadvantages of direct elections. After summarising the historical origins of the institutional factors that influence elections, the authors suggest avenues for future research aided by the digitisation and improved textual analysis of media coverage and government data.

Antonio Spilimbergo, 13 July 2021

Many analysts expected Covid-19 to expose the contradictions of ‘populist’ politicians and cited various reasons for this, including short-sightedness, the lack of trust often associated with populist sentiments, unhelpful populist narratives, and a resistance to international cooperation. This column argues that there is no clear evidence that its handling of the pandemic has ‘killed’ populism. In fact, the pandemic crisis has spawned new political issues which, if left unaddressed by traditional parties, may rekindle the growth of the populist ideology once again. 

Thiemo Fetzer, Pedro Souza, Oliver Vanden Eynde, Austin L. Wright, 11 July 2021

Previous research in economics has focused on the causes of conflict, while the ending of military interventions has received less attention. This column examines the recent security transition from international troops to local forces in the ongoing civil conflict in Afghanistan using declassified data on conflict outcomes and perceptions of local security. It finds that a decline in violence during the initial phase of the security transfer was followed by an upsurge in violence once foreign troops physically withdrew, suggesting that the Taliban’s attacks have been highly strategic. 

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