Gilbert Cette, Jimmy Lopez, Jacques Mairesse, Giuseppe Nicoletti, 02 December 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of the swift reorganisation of tasks and logistics in cushioning economic shocks. While it is too early to study the effects of managerial talent on resilience to the COVID-19 crisis, useful insights can be drawn from the experience of the Great Recession. This column shows that countries with a higher quality of management before the Great Recession have been more able to limit employment losses. This was achieved through the ability to moderate real wage growth.

Erik Frohm, 11 October 2020

Until the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis, wage growth had remained sluggish in many advanced economies, while labour markets appear to have improved substantially. This column argues that real-time indicators based on qualitative survey data provided an overly optimistic picture of labour market conditions in the aftermath of the Great Recession. A new establishment-level measure in Sweden, that utilises survey respondents’ quantitative assessments of labour shortages, overcomes some of the shortcomings of purely qualitative data and indicates that labour markets have typically been much weaker than initially assumed during the recovery. As labour shortages are strongly correlated with wage growth at the establishment level, their lower level can help explain why wage growth in Sweden has been sluggish. 

Dan Andrews, Nathan Deutscher, Jonathan Hambur, David Hansell, 01 October 2020

Young people bore the brunt of the labour adjustment to the Great Recession and the COVID-19 shock appears to be having similar effects. Using Australian data over 1991-2017, this column shows that graduating in a recession imparts scarring effects on earnings for up to ten years. Recessions disrupt worker-firm match quality, but the resulting scarring effects fade over time as workers switch to more productive firms. Timely macroeconomic stimulus and labour mobility-enhancing structural reforms can ameliorate the scarring effects of recessions.

Fredrik N G Andersson, Lars Jonung, 08 May 2020

Negative interest rates were once seen as impossible outside the realm of economic theory. However, recently several central banks have imposed such rates, with prominent economists supporting this move. This column investigates the actual effects of negative interest rates, taking evidence from the Swedish experience during 2015-2019. It is evident that the policy’s effect on the inflation rate was modest, and that it contributed to increased financial vulnerabilities. The lesson from the experiment is clear: Do not do it again.

Giulia Giupponi, Camille Landais, 01 April 2020

Short-time work is a subsidy for temporary reductions in the number of hours worked in firms affected by temporary shocks. Evidence suggests that it can have large positive effects on employment and can be more effective than unemployment insurance or universal transfers. This column discusses how the COVID-19 crisis – with its mandated reduction in hours of work and massive liquidity crunch for firms – is a textbook case for the use of short-time work. Taking into account available evidence and the current situation, it proposes guidelines to effectively implement short-term work.

Jennifer Castle, David Hendry, Andrew Martinez, 21 January 2020

Real wages and productivity in the UK have stagnated since 2007, whereas employment has risen considerably. Many commentators lament the consequent failure of `living standards’ to rise at historical rates. But real GDP per capita has grown by more than 20% since 2000 despite the Great Recession, so aggregate living standards have in fact risen. This column resolves the apparent paradox.

Plamen Nikolov, Paolo Pasimeni, 11 December 2019

If properly designed, even a small fiscal capacity can maximise its stabilisation effect. The column studies the macroeconomic stabilisation provided by the federal budget in the US as an example for monetary unions. Corporate income tax, on the revenue side, and social security, on the spending side, are the two most effective items. The key is to collect revenues based on the income of the most mobile factor, and to provide support to the income of the least mobile factor. 

Joan Costa-Font, Alberto Batinti, 13 October 2019

A sizeable middle class is essential to protect societies against socioeconomic and political instability. This column examines the effect of economic recessions on the size of the middle class using different income-based and self-perception definitions. It finds that anticipated recessions do not produce an overall middle-class squeeze, but unanticipated shocks such as the Great Recession do. It also finds that recessions increase the share of the population that regards itself as middle class.

Francesco Bianchi, Diego Comin, Howard Kung, Thilo Kind, 26 February 2019

During the Great Recession, several European countries implemented fiscal austerity measures to reduce sovereign debt. This column argues that such policies affect the decision to adopt new technologies and can have negative consequences for productivity and growth in the medium run. Thus, low technology adoption due to fiscal austerity can lead to slow recoveries. These, in turn, can make the fiscal stabilisation unnecessarily costly. Fiscal austerity is desirable only if it is able to reduce the cost of financing debt quickly.

Reamonn Lydon, Thomas Y. Mathä, Stephen Millard, 19 February 2019

Short-time work schemes are a fiscal stabiliser in Europe. Between 2010 and 2013, they were used by 7% of firms, employing 9% of workers in the region. This column uses ECB data to show that firms use the schemes to offset negative shocks and retain high-productivity workers. High firing costs and wage rigidity increase the use of short-time work, which in turn reduces the fall in employment brought on by a recession. 

Wei Cui, Vincent Sterk, 09 January 2019

The effects of quantitative easing are poorly understood, in part because standard models of monetary policy predict that it doesn't work. This column uses a model in which households can be unequal and hold assets with different degrees of liquidity to show that quantitative easing can provide a powerful stimulus to the macroeconomy, and that it avoided a large decline in output and inflation during 2009. Nevertheless, side-effects on inequality mean that social welfare tends to be lower under quantitative easing than under conventional policy.

Emin Dinlersoz, Henry Hyatt, Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, Veronika Penciakova, 09 January 2019

The financing behaviour of private US firms has been somewhat neglected in the firm dynamics literature. This column presents a new dataset for studying these firms’ behaviour and explores how the Great Recession affected their growth. The results show substantial heterogeneity in leverage by firm age and size among private firms, but not among public firms. 

Laurence Kotlikoff, 28 November 2018

The general consensus on what caused the Great Recession can be summed up as “bad banks full of bad bankers did bad things”. This column argues, however, that this narrative doesn’t fit the facts. And worse, it diverts attention from the real problem, which was regular use of a bad banking system – a banking system built to fail.

Guillermo Ordoñez, Facundo Piguillem, 19 October 2018

As life expectancy has increased, so has the need for retirement savings. New financial instruments have been important in meeting the increasing demand for safe assets. This column shows that shadow banking has played a crucial role in meeting the higher demand for insurance by lowering the financial sector’s liquidity costs. Despite its role in the Great Recession, shadow banking has done more good than harm.

Coen Teulings, 13 September 2018

The decade following the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was a traumatic period for the euro area. Though the financial crisis originated in the US, the recovery there was quicker than in the euro area, and the output loss in the euro area appears to be about 15% compared to ‘only’ 10% for the US. This column argues that the imbalance between monetary and fiscal integration seems to have been an important factor behind the euro area being hit more severely than the US. A revision of the fiscal rules is needed.

James Cloyne, Kilian Huber, Ethan Ilzetzki, Henrik Kleven, 31 August 2018

House prices are strongly correlated with borrowing, but little is known about which one is causing the other. The column uses UK house price data between 2005 and 2015, and also exploits unusual features of the UK mortgage market, to show that a 10% rise in house prices led to a 2% rise in the amount of equity extracted. This is mostly because higher house prices could be used as collateral.

Tim Jackson, Laurence Kotlikoff, 30 August 2018

Financial crises have historically been triggered by news of financial malfeasance. Some economists advocate greater opacity for bankers to ensure investors keep the faith. This column models bankers as including a share of malfeasants who steal or lose investors’ money. Within this framework, deposit insurance makes matters worse and private monitoring fails due to free riding. The optimal policy is identified as full financial disclosure, which weeds out crooked bankers. 

Pierre Cahuc, Francis Kramarz, Sandra Nevoux, 16 July 2018

Short-time work programmes aim to preserve jobs at firms that are experiencing temporarily low revenues, for example during a recession. This column assesses how the short-time work programme implemented in France during the Great Recession affected employment. Results confirm that the programme saved jobs and increased hours worked, and that participating firms recovered faster than non-participating firms. 

Gene Amromin, Mariacristina De Nardi, Karl Schulze, 04 January 2018

A widening gap between rich and poor has been extensively documented for many countries and economies. This column explores how the wealth gap affects output and consumption changes in response to aggregate shocks. Lower- and higher-wealth households face different borrowing constraints, and have different marginal propensities to consume. Different levels of access to financial liquidity thus play a major role in the overall consumption dynamics during an economic downturn.

Yann Algan, Sergei Guriev, Elias Papaioannou, Evgenia Passari, 12 December 2017

A wave of populism has been gaining ground in the West since 2012. This column uses regional data for 26 European countries to explore how the impact of the Great Recession on labour markets has affected populist voting, political attitudes, and trust. The results indicate a strong link between unemployment and voting for non-mainstream (especially populist) parties. Unemployment is also correlated with increasing distrust of national and European parliaments.

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