Emek Basker, Timothy S. Simcoe, 18 January 2018

ICT fuelled rapid growth in US retail during the 1990s and 2000s. This column maps the adoption of universal product codes and scanners to show that the barcode was one of the main drivers of this growth. Companies adopting barcodes employed 10% more employees, delivered a wider range of products, and were more likely to procure from abroad.

Miriam Bruhn, Dean Karlan, Antoinette Schoar, 18 December 2017

Atsushi Ohyama, 14 December 2017

The length of time industries prosper varies significantly. This column examines why some industries grow and prosper for a long period of time through the lens of submarket creation and destruction. Using data from the Japanese Census of Manufacture, it shows that the creation and the destruction of products allow an industry to continue attracting new entrants, that start-up and spinoff firms are more likely to enter a newly created submarket than incumbent firms, and that new entry is encouraged when unrealised business opportunities are reallocated smoothly.

Ricardo Caballero, Emmanuel Farhi, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 13 December 2017

The US has seen a fall in real interest rates but stable real returns on productive capital in the last few decades. This column argues that these divergent trends are inherently interlinked, and arise from a combination of a rise in the capital risk premium, an increase in monopoly rents from mark-ups, and capital-biased technical change. With these secular trends unlikely to reverse anytime soon, we are likely to live in a prolonged era of low interest rates, high capital risk premia, and low labour share.

David Baqaee, Emmanuel Farhi, 04 December 2017

Mounting evidence suggests that average mark-ups in the US economy have been increasing. This column argues that about half of measured aggregate productivity growth over the last 20 years can be accounted for by firms with higher mark-ups increasing their relative size. This implies that the slowdown in pure technology growth is even slower than suggested by aggregate productivity statistics. Eliminating mark-ups would increase the productivity of the US economy by about 40%.

Era Dabla-Norris, Florian Misch, Munawer Khwaja, 30 November 2017

Samuel Bazzi, Amalavoyal Chari, Shanthi Nataraj, Alex Rothenberg, 28 November 2017

Bruno Pellegrino, Luigi Zingales, 28 November 2017

Italy stands out among developed countries for its large public debt and chronically low productivity growth. The country’s productivity growth disease cannot be addressed without understanding why aggregate labour productivity abruptly stopped growing around 1995. This column argues that the most likely cause is Italian firms’ non-meritocratic managerial practices, which meant they failed to capitalise on the ICT revolution.

Ayako Kondo, 21 November 2017

Economists have studied extensively the direct impacts of natural disasters on local labour markets, but less is known about the knock-on consequences for wider markets. This column argues that although supply chain disruptions caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake increased job separation and geographical shifts, the effects on employment status were weak. The long-run impact of the earthquake on the labour markets outside of the directly affected areas appears to be limited, despite public concerns at the time.

Kaoru Hosono, Daisuke Miyakawa, Miho Takizawa, 12 November 2017

Several studies have examined the profitability and productivity of foreign subsidiaries, but less is known about the determinants of success. This column looks at the contribution of resources from 3,800 Japanese parent firms to the business activities of their 20,000 overseas subsidiaries. The results suggest a positive contribution of parent firms’ intangibles to subsidiaries’ production, in particular for smaller subsidiaries.

Gene Grossman, Elhanan Helpman, Ezra Oberfield, Thomas Sampson, 11 November 2017

Many countries have experienced both a slowdown in aggregate productivity growth and a decline in labour’s share of national income in recent years. This column argues that the productivity slowdown may have caused the decline in labour’s income. Calibrating the authors’ model to US data suggests that a one percentage point decline in the productivity growth rate accounts for between half and all of the observed decline in the US labour share.

Diego Restuccia, Richard Rogerson, 03 November 2017

Mariassunta Giannetti, Xiaoyun Yu, 30 October 2017

One of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s defining policies has been in the fight against corruption, which hinders innovation and growth by creating privileges for established firms. This column shows that extensive corruption in China may indeed have hampered the process of firm progress, and that the anti-corruption campaign has been a good move towards favouring an efficient allocation of resources and, ultimately, sustained growth.

Thomas Andersen, Jeanet Bentzen, Carl-Johan Dalgaard, Paul Sharp, 23 October 2017

Examples of the interaction of religious influence and economic performance have occurred throughout history, most notable Weber’s argument of the ‘Protestant ethic’. This column uses an earlier example, of the Cistercian Catholic Order, to show that religious values did influence productivity and economic performance in England and across Europe. The effect of this historic influence has persisted to today.

Michel Serafinelli, 17 October 2017

The productivity benefits of similar firms locating near one another are well accepted, but there is little agreement on how knowledge spillovers have local effects. This column presents evidence from Italy of how firm-to-firm labour mobility enhances the productivity of firms located near other, highly productive firms. The main finding is that the recruitment of workers with experience at good firms significantly increases the productivity of the firms hiring them.

Tom Chang, Tal Gross, Joshua Graff Zivin, Matthew Neidell, 05 October 2017

Klaus Adam, Henning Weber, 26 September 2017

The productivity of many firms evolves over time, which impacts the optimal inflation rate, that is, the rate of price increase with the least distortionary effect on relative goods prices. This column presents estimates for the US that suggest that, due to firm-level productivity changes, the optimal inflation rate has dropped from somewhat over 2% in the mid-1980s to a current level of roughly 1%.

Nicholas Bloom, Chad Jones, John Van Reenen, Michael Webb, 20 September 2017

The rate of productivity growth in advanced economies has been falling. Optimists hope for a fourth industrial revolution, while pessimists lament that most potential productivity growth has already occurred. This column argues that data on the research effort across all industries shows the costs of extracting ideas have increased sharply over time. This suggests that unless research inputs are continuously raised, economic growth will continue to slow in advanced nations.

Peter Robertson, Longfeng Ye, 11 September 2017

The conventional wisdom is that labour reallocation has been a key driver of China’s growth miracle, and slowing migrant labour flows and rapid wage growth have raised concerns over whether this source of growth has run its course. This column argues that the literature on growth and labour reallocation in China has been dominated by a method that, relative to the now standard growth accounting model, substantially overstates the gains. Allowing for this and for human capital differences across sectors, sectoral labour reallocation has not been a key source of productivity growth in China.

Vítor Constâncio, Philipp Hartmann, Peter McAdam, 29 September 2017

The European Central Bank’s 2017 Sintra Forum on Central Banking built a bridge from the currently strengthening recovery in Europe to longer-term growth issues for, and structural change in, advanced economies. In this column the organisers highlight some of the main points from the discussions, including what the sources of weak productivity and investment are and what type of economic polarisation tendencies the new growth model seems to be associated with.