Roberto Ganau, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 19 August 2017

Whether organised crime undermines productivity has been studied extensively in broad terms, but not at the firm level. This column uses extensive firm-level data from across Italy to suggest that this is firmly the case, both through direct and indirect channels. The results point to a substantial negative direct effect of organised crime on firms' productivity growth. Moreover, any positive impact derived from industrial clustering and agglomeration economies is thoroughly debilitated by a strong presence of organised criminality.

Rikard Eriksson, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 08 August 2017

While job-related mobility is key to knowledge sharing, it may also undermine on-the-job training through labour poaching, and assessing its overall impact on productivity and growth is not straightforward. This column uses data on nearly 2.7 million new hires in Sweden to analyse the impact of labour mobility on plant performance. The greatest positive impact is seen in the country’s three largest cities, while firms in other large urban and university regions emerge as the biggest losers from job mobility.

Keisuke Kondo, 23 July 2017

The large literature on agglomeration economies attests to the higher average productivity of firms in larger cities. However, this literature focuses on positive externalities, and a second potential mechanism – selection against less productive firms – has received little empirical attention. This column explores how these two mechanisms contribute to higher productivity in Japanese cities. Consistent with earlier work considering the case of France, no evidence for a selection effect is found.

Laurent Gobillon, Carine Milcent, 21 July 2017

It is widely believed that the goal of keeping health expenditures under control while increasing the quality of the healthcare system can best be achieved by giving a greater role to market forces. This column evaluates the effect of a pro-competition reform implemented in France over 2004-2008 on hospital quality. It finds that the impact on quality depends on the managerial autonomy of hospitals. And due to the French healthcare market structure, the overall effect of the reform has been limited.

Nicholas Crafts, Terence Mills, 17 July 2017

Estimates of trend total factor productivity growth in the US have been significantly reduced, contributing to fears that the slowdown is permanent. This column provides an historical perspective on the relationship between estimated trends in total factor productivity growth and subsequent outcomes. It argues that In the past, trend growth estimates have not been a good guide for future medium-term outcomes, and ‘techno-optimists’ should not be put off by time-series econometrics.

Masayuki Morikawa, 06 July 2017

Given the early stages of diffusion of many AI and robotic technologies, it is too early to measure the impact of these innovations on jobs. This column uses comprehensive survey data from Japan to measure the extent to which workers across different industries, levels of education, and occupations perceive their jobs to be at risk. Workers with adaptable skills acquired through higher education (particularly in science and engineering) or occupation-specific skills (particularly those in human-intensive personal services) are less worried about their jobs being replaced by AI and robotics.

Ejaz Ghani, Stephen O'Connell, 15 June 2017

There are concerns that the premature deindustrialisation experienced by low-income countries in Africa and South Asia will negatively affect their growth. This column argues that this is not the case, since services, rather than manufacturing, are driving growth in the developing world. While demographics and urbanisation can help growth in low-income countries, the low quality of physical infrastructure is a major challenge.

Nicholas Bloom, Erik Brynjolfsson, Lucia Foster, Ron Jarmin, Megha Patnaik, Itay Saporta Eksten, John Van Reenen, 17 May 2017

Disentangling the relationship between management practices and productivity has been hampered by the absence of large sample data across plants and firms. This column exploits a new survey covering US manufacturing to show that management practices vary both among and within companies. Furthermore, management practices are just as important for productivity as a number of other factors associated with successful businesses, such as technology adoption. 

Giuseppe Berlingieri, Patrick Blanchenay, Chiara Criscuolo, 15 May 2017

Some firms pay well while others don’t; and some are highly productive while many aren’t. This column presents new firm-level data on the increasing dispersion of wages and productivity in both the manufacturing and services sectors in 16 OECD countries. Wage inequalities are growing between firms, even those operating in the same sector – and they are linked to growing differences between high and low productivity firms. Both globalisation and technological progress (notably information and communications technologies) influence these outcomes – as do policies and institutions such as minimum wages, employment protection legislation, unions, and processes of wage-setting.

Robert Kollmann, Beatrice Pataracchia, Rafal Raciborski, Marco Ratto, Werner Roeger, Lukas Vogel, 27 April 2017

The Global Crisis led to a sharp contraction and long-lasting slump in both Eurozone and US real activity, but the post-crisis adjustment in the Eurozone and the US shows striking differences. This column argues that financial shocks were key determinants of the 2008-09 Great Recession, for both the Eurozone and the US. The post-2009 slump in the Eurozone mainly reflects a combination of adverse aggregate demand and supply shocks, in particular lower productivity growth, and persistent adverse shocks to capital investment linked to the poor health of the Eurozone financial system. Mono-causal explanations of the persistent slump are thus insufficient. Adverse financial shocks were less persistent for the US.

Douglas Irwin, 19 April 2017

The idea of comparative advantage is an essential part of every economists’ intellectual toolkit. On the 200th anniversary of the publication of “On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation”, this column salutes David Ricardo’s achievement of setting out the theory for comparative advantage for the first time.

Daron Acemoğlu, Pascual Restrepo, 10 April 2017

As robots and other computer-assisted technologies take over tasks previously performed by labour, there is increasing concern about the future of jobs and wages. This column discusses evidence that industrial robots reduced employment and wages between 1990 and 2007. Estimates suggest that an extra robot per 1,000 workers reduces the employment to population ratio by 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by 0.25-0.5%. This effect is distinct from the impacts of imports, the decline of routine jobs, offshoring, other types of IT capital, or the total capital stock. 

Chang-Tai Hsieh, Nicholas Li, Ralph Ossa, Mu-Jeung Yang, 26 March 2017

Trade economists typically believe that in addition to lower prices for imported goods, trade liberalisation also brings import variety and domestic productivity gains. This column accounts for these ‘new’ gains in a careful reconsideration of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement. Although the agreement did see improvements in Canadian income associated with import variety and domestic productivity, these were far outweighed by the welfare loss associated with the reduction in domestic variety. Nonetheless, Canadian welfare did improve overall when one takes into account the ‘traditional’ gains associated with lower import prices.

Sean Dougherty, Sarra Ben Yahmed, 20 January 2017

Globalisation offers many benefits, some of which cannot be separated from other types of policy. This column examines how the benefits from removing regulations that impede competition are partly contingent on openness to import competition. Using recent firm-level analyses of productivity growth, it argues that those firms that contribute the most to overall growth could also be held back by reduced openness, harming overall advances in incomes.

Harald Fadinger, Christian Ghiglino, Mariya Teteryatnikova, 24 December 2016

Economists are just starting to understand how observed input-output linkages and productivity differences are connected. This column investigates how differences in the distribution of sectoral input-output multipliers interact with sectoral productivities to determine cross-country differences in aggregate income. It finds that the impact of the linkages on productivity are substantial, which in turn has significant implications for policy.

Enrico Perotti, 16 December 2016

Per-capita income in developed countries has stagnated, which most economists regard as a departure from the long-run trend. This column argues that zero long-term growth will be the new normal. In this zero-growth world, spending increases must always be balanced against spending reductions elsewhere or in the future, which creates a further problem: no politician could implement policy changes with such bleak outcomes.

Elisa Gamberoni, Claire Giordano, Paloma Lopez-Garcia, 13 December 2016

An efficient allocation of inputs across firms is a necessary condition to boost TFP growth. This column presents evidence that in large Eurozone economies, capital misallocation trended upwards in the period 2002-2012 while labour misallocation dynamics were flatter. Uncertainty and credit market frictions were strongly associated with the observed developments in capital misallocation, whereas the overall deregulation in the product and labour markets contributed to dampening input misallocation dynamics. 

Francesco Furlanetto, Ørjan Robstad, 10 December 2016

The macroeconomic effects of immigration are a hot topic, particularly during elections. Using immigration records from Norway, this column argues that an increase in immigration lowers unemployment (even for native workers) and has no negative effects on public finances. However, it identifies a negative effect on productivity that may be a worry for long-term growth.

Lionel Fontagné, Gianluca Santoni, 20 November 2016

A key driver of productivity is ease of resource allocation. This column uses firm-level data for France to show that misallocation has a spatial dimension: resource allocation and the associated effect on productivity are related not only to firms’ characteristics, but also to the environment in which they operate. Denser commuting zones seem to offer a better match between employers and employees, leading to more productive firms.

Dale Jorgenson, Mun S. Ho, Jon Samuels, 01 November 2016

There has been speculation that the low employment rates for younger and less-educated workers in the US reflect a ‘new normal’. This column uses detailed new US data to project output, productivity, and employment rates over the next decade. The results indicate that US economic growth will continue to recover from the Great Recession through the resumption of growth in productivity and labour input. The recovery of employment rates for less-educated and younger workers will make an important contribution to future economic growth.

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