Samba Mbaye, Marialuz Moreno Badia, Kyungla Chae, 12 January 2019

Since the financial crisis researchers have extensively explored the dangers of excessive public debt, but excessive private debt has received less attention. This column documents a common form of indirect private sector bailout that goes largely unnoticed. Whenever households and firms are caught in a debt overhang and need to deleverage, governments come to the rescue through a countercyclical rise in public debt. This indirect substitution takes place even in the absence of a crisis.

Luc Laeven, Peter McAdam, Alexander Popov, 10 December 2018

There are good arguments both in favour and against the idea that more labour market flexibility will deliver benefits to an economy during a downturn. This column presents novel evidence on this question, using data from Spain during the 2008–09 credit crunch. The results show that credit-constrained firms grow faster if they are subject to less strict firing and hiring restrictions, as long as they are technologically able to substitute labour for capital. The findings provide an argument in favour of more flexible labour laws.

Jane Kelly, Julia Le Blanc, Reamonn Lydon, 25 November 2018

Loan-to-value limits and other borrower-based macroprudential measures are now used in two-thirds of advanced economies. This column uses survey data to document changes in credit standards in a cross-section of countries in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the financial crisis. There is clear evidence of laxer credit standards in countries that experienced a real estate boom-bust, and a significant tightening after the bust. The results imply that compared to earlier years, younger and lower-income borrowers have to save for longer before buying.

Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, Ulrike Steins, 09 August 2018

Recent work examining the evolution of the wealth distribution has tended to not paid much attention to the role of asset prices. This column uses a new US dataset to explore the role that asset price movements have in the US wealth distribution. Asset prices matter because portfolio composition differs systematically along the wealth distribution. The data further show that no progress has been made in reducing wealth inequalities between white and black households over the past 70 years. 

Lutz Kilian, Xiaoqing Zhou, 09 November 2017

Global commodity prices surged across the board after 2003, with some observers claiming that this reflected a permanent increase in global real economic activity. This column argues that this was a persistent but transitory phenomena tied to rising commodity demand from Asia. It presents evidence of a global economic slowdown since 2011, with low real commodity prices likely to persist.

Russell Cooper, Moritz Meyer, Immo Schott, 28 October 2017

A major factor behind the ‘German miracle’ – which saw GDP collapse by almost 7% during the Global Crisis but unemployment increase by less than 1% – was a ‘short-time work’ policy that incentivised firms to reduce workers' hours rather than laying off workers. This column explores the effectiveness of the policy and the potentially negative effects on output and productivity. In the short term, short-time work prevented steeper falls in output and employment. However, it also affected the reallocation of labour between more and less productive firms, leading to medium-term productivity losses.

Maarten de Ridder, Coen Teulings, 13 July 2017

Around the world, growth has yet to recover to its pre-Global Crisis trend. This column uses the crisis as a quasi-natural experiment to test the endogenous growth hypothesis, which suggests that output has not recovered because the crisis affected the rate of technological progress. Firms that preferred a bank that was more severely affected by the crisis experienced a large fall in R&D investment and a persistent fall in output in subsequent years. This suggests a direct link between R&D and future productivity, as predicted by endogenous growth models.

Yi Huang, Marco Pagano, Ugo Panizza, 03 November 2016

High levels of public debt are correlated with lower economic growth across countries, but questions remain about whether this relationship is causal. Using Chinese data, this column explores whether increasing public debt crowds out private investment. City-level investment ratios are found to be negatively correlated with local government debt for private manufacturing firms, but not for state-owned or foreign-owned manufacturers. This suggests that as well as the short-term benefits of fiscal stimulus, there might also be negative longer-term effects, such as the crowding out of more efficient firms. 

Alex Cukierman, 15 October 2016

The decline in long-term interest rates has nurtured the view of a persistent shift of the natural rate into negative territory. This column argues that existing estimates of the natural rate, based on the New Keynesian model, are likely to be biased downward. It makes a case for introducing long-term risky natural rates into the analysis of monetary policy, which could shed more light on the role of risk attitudes, the structure of financial institutions, and regulation in the determination of potential output and economic activity.

Thorsten Beck, Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Refet Gürkaynak, Andrea Ichino, 10 February 2016

The Global Crisis was a watershed, not just for economies around the world, but for economics as a discipline. This column introduces a special issue of Economic Policy that collects key papers on the Global Crisis published in its aftermath between 2009 and 2014. The papers chart the evolution of economists’ thinking on the causes of and cures for the Global and EZ Crises. 

Kevin Daly, Tim Munday, 28 November 2015

The fallout from the Global Crisis and its aftermath has been deeply damaging for European output. This column uses a growth accounting framework to explore the pre-Crisis and post-Crisis growth dynamics of several European countries. The weakness of post-Crisis real GDP in the Eurozone manifested itself in a decline in employment and average hours worked. However, decomposing growth for the Eurozone as a whole conceals significant differences across European countries, in both real GDP growth and its factor inputs.

Philip Lane, 07 September 2015

In the lead up to the global financial crisis, there was a substantial credit boom in advanced economies. In the Eurozone, cross-border flows played an especially important role in the boom-bust cycle. This column examines how the common currency and linkages between member states contributed to the Eurozone crisis. A very strong relationship between pre-crisis levels of external imbalances and macroeconomic performance since 2008 is observed. The findings point to the importance of delinking banks and sovereigns, and the need for macro-financial policies that manage the risks associated with excessive international debt flows.

Alex Pienkowski, Pablo Anaya, 06 August 2015

During the Global Crisis, sovereign debt-to-GDP ratios grew substantially in the face of shocks to growth, increased fiscal deficits, bank recapitalisation costs, and rising borrowing costs. This column looks at how these various shocks interact with each other to exacerbate or mitigate the eventual impact on debt. Choice of monetary policy regime is an important determinant of how public debt reacts to these shocks.

Esa Jokivuolle, Jussi Keppo, Xuchuan Yuan, 23 July 2015

Bankers’ compensation has been indicted as a contributing factor to the Global Crisis. The EU and the US have responded in different ways – the former legislated bonus caps, while the latter implemented bonus deferrals. This column examines the effectiveness of these measures, using US data from just before the Crisis. Caps are found to be more effective in reducing the risk-taking by bank CEOs.

Joshua Aizenman, Yin-Wong Cheung, Hiro Ito, 13 September 2014

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis new patterns of reserve hoarding have emerged. This column identifies structural changes in international reserve accumulation. Emerging markets with higher savings rates tend to use higher buffers of reserves, partially accounting for the higher levels of reserves in east Asia compared to Latin America. While there is no end in sight for reserve hoarding, some of the newly identified factors may mitigate eventual reserve accumulation.

Barry Eichengreen, Andrew Rose, 05 June 2014

Since the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, opposition to the use of capital controls has weakened, and some economists have advocated their use as a macroprudential policy instrument. This column shows that capital controls have rarely been used in this way in the past. Rather than moving with short-term macroeconomic variables, capital controls have tended to vary with financial, political, and institutional development. This may be because governments have other macroeconomic policy instruments at their disposal, or because suddenly imposing capital controls would send a bad signal.

Erik Feyen, Raquel Letelier, Inessa Love, Samuel Maimbo, Roberto Rocha, 15 March 2014

Eastern Europe was hit especially hard by the credit crunch during the global financial crisis. This column presents new evidence suggesting that reliance on foreign funding was more important than foreign bank ownership per se in exacerbating the post-crisis credit contraction. These findings point to the need to put more emphasis on the discussion of bank business models, regulatory standards, and supervisory arrangements.

Giulia Bettin, Andrea Presbitero, Nikola Spatafora, 10 February 2014

Remittances are one of the most important financial flows to developing countries – more than three times the level of official development assistance. This column presents recent research on remittance flows from Italy. Their limited volatility and countercyclical behaviour with respect to macroeconomic conditions in the recipient country help mitigate developing countries’ vulnerability to external shocks. Better access to financial services for migrants can foster remittance flows.

Jose Luis Diaz Sanchez, Aristomene Varoudakis, 06 February 2014

External imbalances within the Eurozone grew substantially between the introduction of the euro in 1999 and the global financial crisis of 2008–09. Using new empirical evidence, this column argues that imbalances in the Eurozone periphery were mainly driven by a domestic demand boom, triggered by greater financial integration, with changes in the periphery’s competitiveness playing only a minor role. Internal devaluation may thus have been of limited effectiveness in restoring external balances, although better external competitiveness may eventually boost medium-term growth.

Kristin Forbes, 05 February 2014

The Federal Reserve’s ‘taper talk’ in spring 2013 has been blamed for outflows of capital from emerging markets. This column argues that global growth prospects and uncertainty are more important drivers of emerging-market capital flows than US monetary policy. Although crises can affect very different countries simultaneously, over time investors begin to discriminate between countries according to their fundamentals. Domestic investors play an increasingly important – and potentially stabilising – role. During a financial crisis, ‘retrenchment’ by domestic investors can offset foreign investors’ withdrawals of capital.

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