Welfare state and social Europe

Lars Calmfors, 08 September 2020

Assar Lindbeck, who died on 28 August, aged 90, was for decades Sweden's leading economist. As a research entrepreneur, he developed the Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) at Stockholm University to an internationally prominent research institution, he was instrumental in creating the Nobel Prize in economics, and he reformed and internationalised the country’s economics PhD teaching. His own research spanned monetary and fiscal policy, the welfare state, the importance of social norms and the labour market – and he also played a key role in both Swedish and international public debates on these issues. He always emphasised that economists should both do research at the international frontier and participate actively in the policy debate – and that these two activities should cross-fertilise one another.

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Michael Weber, 08 September 2020

A major component of the 27 March CARES Act in the US was a one-time transfer to all qualifying adults of up to $1200, with $500 per additional child. Using a large-scale survey of US consumers, this column studies how these large transfers affected individuals' consumption, saving and labour supply decisions. Most respondents report that they primarily saved or paid down debts with their transfers, with only about 15% reporting that they mostly spent it. On average, individuals report having spent or planning to spend only around 40% of the total transfer. The payments appear to have had no meaningful effect on labour-supply decisions from these transfer payments, except for 20% of the unemployed who report that the stimulus payment made them search harder for a job.

Helsinki Graduate School of Economics Situation Room, 21 May 2020

Effective management of the COVID-19 crisis requires real data in real time, often drawn from multiple sources. This column describes how researchers in Finland have created a remote-access ‘Situation Room’ that allows for real-time analysis of the Finnish economy, both for the government and for the wider public. The results from the study provide useful insights for policymakers in Finland and beyond.

Massimo Motta, Martin Peitz, 30 April 2020

The European Commission has been asked to develop a proposal for a new recovery fund of more than €1 trillion. Given the substantial support needed by most sectors in the present circumstances, it is crucial to identify the ones which are most important to proper functioning of the EU economies. Based on the principle of subsidiarity, this column formulates two general criteria to identify these sectors: those for which (i) the volume of cross-border trade within the EU is large, or (ii) externalities across member states are important. Support schemes should be oriented towards the future and not try to preserve the status quo ante.

Tilman Tacke, Anu Madgavkar, Hans‐Helmut Kotz, 30 April 2020

The first two decades of the 21st century saw job opportunities expand and prices for discretionary consumer goods drop. But these gains came at the cost of social contracts in many countries, where working arrangements became more fragile, wages stagnated, and the labour share of income fell. This column argues that the severe economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed vulnerabilities in the social contract. When the immediate crisis is over, risk may need rebalancing towards an increasing role for institutions and mutualisation.

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