Politics and economics

Laura Barros, Manuel Santos Silva, 24 January 2020

Brazil plunged into economic crisis between 2014 and 2018, the year when far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro won the presidential election. This column, part of the Vox debate on populism, argues that Bolsonaro’s surprising victory is partially explained by the way the economic crisis interacted with prevailing gender norms. In regions where men experience larger employment losses, there is an increase in the share of votes for Bolsonaro. In contrast, in regions where women experience larger losses, his vote share is relatively lower. This may be explained by men feeling more compelled to vote for a figure that embodies masculine stereotypes as a way of compensating for a decline in economic and social status.

Ishac Diwan, Jamal Ibrahim Haidar, 18 January 2020

Firm-level political connections are widespread. This column examines whether they affect employment decisions in Lebanon, a country where the majority of university students think that connections are important for finding jobs and many admit to having used them. While politically connected firms create more jobs than unconnected firms, the presence of such firms in a sector is correlated with lower aggregate job creation. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that unfair competition from politically connected firms hurts unconnected competitors so much that aggregate growth in the sector is affected negatively.

Filip Matějka, Guido Tabellini, 10 January 2020

Digital technologies provide a vast and accessible supply of information for voters. And yet, research suggests that the American electorate is no better informed than it was in the late 1980s. This column argues that the digital revolution has changed the distribution of news and data, increasing informational asymmetries across issues, amplifying the influence of extremist voters, and diverting attention away from important but non-controversial policies. 

Francesco Drago, Roberto Galbiati, Francesco Sobbrio, 24 December 2019

Assessing how voters respond to public policies they like or dislike is challenging due to the absence of counterfactual scenarios. This column exploits a collective pardon of prisoners in response to prison overcrowding in Italy in 2006 to show that voters punish incumbent politicians for unpopular policies they are deemed responsible for. Regions with greater incidents of recidivism were those where incumbent politicians fared more poorly in post-pardon elections.

Oriana Bandiera, Lant Pritchett, 23 December 2019

This year's Nobel prize celebrated the work of the economists who popularised randomised controlled trials, “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Tim Phillips investigates.

Picture © Nobel Media 2019. Illustration: Niklas Elmehed

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