Megha Patnaik, Andrea Lamorgese, Andrea Linarello, Fabiano Schivardi, 01 May 2021

In response to COVID-19, firms had to adapt to nationwide lockdowns and social distancing measures with little to no prior experience. This column examines the role of management in firms’ responses to the pandemic in Italy, the first western country to be badly hit by the outbreak, and finds that firms with structured management practices experienced lower declines in performance during the post-lockdown period. These firms were more likely to adopt labour-related strategies in response to the lockdown, including transitions to remote work.

Michele Andreolli, Paolo Surico, 29 April 2021

What is the consumption response to unexpected transitory income gains of different size and what are the aggregate demand implications of stimulus packages that target different segments of the population? This column explores these questions using responses to hypothetical questions in the Italian Survey of Household Income and Wealth. Families with low cash-at-hand display a higher marginal propensity to consume out of small gains, while affluent households exhibit a higher marginal propensity to consume out of large gains. For a given level of public spending, a fiscal transfer of a smaller size paid to a larger group of low-income households stimulates aggregate consumption more than a larger transfer paid to a smaller group.

Paolo Acciari, Facundo Alvaredo, Salvatore Morelli, 24 April 2021

Growing wealth disparities can have corrosive effects on equality of opportunity when they crystallise over time and turn into persistent disparities across generations. This column uses newly assembled data from Italian inheritance tax records to show that the wealth share of the top 1% (half a million individuals) increased from 16% in 1995 to 22% in 2016, and the share accruing to the top 0.01% (the richest 5,000 adults) almost tripled from 1.8% to 5%.  In contrast, the poorest 50% saw an 80% drop in their average net wealth over the same period. The data also reveal the growing role of inheritance and gifts inter vivos as a share of national income, as well as their increasing concentration at the top.

Luca Bellodi, Massimo Morelli, Matia Vannoni, 07 April 2021

Populism is once more becoming a dominant feature of the political landscape in many countries, but little is known about its consequences for the quality of government. Using Italian municipal-level data, this column shows that populism has a negative impact on bureaucratic expertise and government performance, ultimately to the detriment of society and the economy. 

Bruno Caprettini, Lorenzo Casaburi, Miriam Venturini, 01 April 2021

In the aftermath of World War II, the 1950 Italian land reform expropriated wealthy landowners and redistributed their land among rural workers, with substantial and long-lasting electoral rewards for the initiating Christian Democratic Party. The electoral effects of the reform were visible even 40 years later, arguably because the reform strengthened local Christian Democratic grassroots organisations and because Christian Democratic governments continued to invest in reform towns. The episode offers insights into the persistence of the electoral benefits of redistribution.

Emanuel Moench, Loriana Pelizzon, Michael Schneider, 23 March 2021

In March 2020, a ‘dash for cash’ driven by the Covid-19 crisis affected the liquidity of the US Treasury bonds market as well as numerous other financial markets around the globe. This column investigates how euro area sovereign bond markets fared during the same period. While deteriorations in sovereign debt market liquidity are evident, these appear to be driven by a ‘dash for collateral’ in euro-denominated safe assets. This suggests some differences from the US experience, as well as variations across European countries. 

Francesca Carta, Francesco D'Amuri, Till von Wachter, 16 March 2021

Population ageing reduces labour supply and burdens pension systems. At the same time, delaying the statutory retirement age may have an impact on firms’ productivity and risks crowding out younger workers. This column exploits an unexpected pension reform in Italy in 2012 which sharply increased the full retirement age for workers aged 55 or above to show that such concerns may not be warranted. A rise in employment of older workers led to an increase in value added while holding labour costs constant. Employment in other age classes also increased. This suggests older workers are valuable to employers and that pension reforms postponing retirement can remove a constraint rather than placing a burden on firms.

Massimiliano Ferraresi, Gianluca Gucciardi, 12 February 2021

In the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, central governments around the world played a central role in defining policy options to combat the pandemic, while the local authorities saw their executive powers temporarily reduced or even cancelled. This column examines the change in policy decisions induced by the pandemic that led to centralised decision-making in Italy. Using an indicator of local governance approval, it investigates the difference between cities politically aligned and non-aligned with the central government before the pandemic, when municipalities enjoyed the usual discretion in policy decisions, and after the COVID-19 outbreak, when decisions were centralised. The findings suggest a public ‘discontent’ with the policy decisions of the central government, which might reflect a sense of a lack of government preparedness against the pandemic.

Augusto Cerqua, Marco Letta, 18 December 2020

There is widespread concern about the toll of the pandemic on local economies, but little causal evidence to assess its real costs. This column presents an impact evaluation of the local economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy, based on a counterfactual application of machine learning algorithms. It documents that, to date, impacts on employment and firms have been dramatically uneven across the Italian territory and spatially uncorrelated with the epidemiological pattern of the first wave. It shows that this heterogeneity is associated with sectoral specialisation, exposure to social aggregation risks, and pre-existing labour market fragilities. Finally, it argues that such diverging local trajectories call for a place-based approach in the policy response to the crisis.

Guido de Blasio, Alessio D'Ignazio, Marco Letta, 27 November 2020

The use of artificial intelligence in preventing crime is gaining increasing interest in research and policymaking circles. This column discusses how machine learning can be leveraged to predict local corruption in Italy. It highlights how such algorithmic predictions could be employed in the service of anti-corruption efforts, while preserving transparency and accountability of the decisions taken by the policymaker.

Alex Bryson, Lorenzo Corsini, Irene Martelli, 24 November 2020

Public spending on education in Italy has been falling for many years, limiting the hiring of new permanent teachers and thus raising the average age of teachers in the country. This column considers the effect of allocating permanent teacher contracts to older teachers on student performance in upper-secondary schools in Tuscany. The findings suggest that a higher proportion of older teachers in a school has a negative effect on student performance. The government may need to do more to recruit younger cohorts of teachers into permanent posts, preferably through periodic intakes.

Daron Acemoğlu, Giuseppe De Feo, Giacomo De Luca, Gianluca Russo, 28 October 2020

Right-wing populist movements often come to power by exploiting people’s anxieties and fears. Following WWI, fascists in Italy likely exploited the perceived threat of socialism to gain support among the elite and the middle classes. This column explores the link between the threat of socialism and Mussolini’s rise to power and finds a strong association between the Red Scare in Italy and the subsequent local support for the Fascist Party in the early 1920s. Local elites, especially large landowners, played an important role in boosting Fascist Party activity and support.

Nicola Borri, Francesco Drago, Chiara Santantonio, Francesco Sobbrio, 23 October 2020

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, many countries imposed lockdowns to control the spread of the virus. This column evaluates the Italian economic lockdown and its effect on mortality due to Covid-19. It finds that the intensity of the lockdown is associated with a significant reduction in mortality among people aged 40 and over, with larger and more significant effects for individuals over 50. Back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that in the 26 days between 5 April and 30 April 4,793 deaths were avoided in the 3,518 municipalities which experienced a more intense lockdown.

Sergio Galletta, Tommaso Giommoni, 03 October 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to increase income inequality around the world as the poorer are likely to be hit harder by the pandemic’s negative economic impact. Focusing on Italy, this column argues that such distributional consequences also appeared during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Income inequality became higher in areas more afflicted by the flu pandemic, and this is mostly explained by a reduction in the share of income held by poorer people. This effect seems to persist even a century after the pandemic.

Joan Costa-Font, Rosella Levaggi, Gilberto Turati, 20 September 2020

While competition between publicly funded hospitals seems to improve efficiency and the quality of care in ‘normal’ times, during a pandemic certain types of disintegrated hospital competition models can compromise the necessary stewardship of the system, and give rise to a larger number of fatalities. This column presents a regional comparison of the healthcare systems in three Italian regions that were severely hit at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The analysis suggests that an integrated model can provide a swifter reaction to an outbreak by minimising coordination efforts as well as  information costs.

Brian Nolan, Juan C. Palomino, Philippe Van Kerm, Salvatore Morelli, 19 September 2020

Whether and how much intergenerational transfers contribute to wealth inequality is still subject to debate. This column analyses household survey data on inheritance and gifts inter vivos in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the US to relate current household wealth levels and inequality to the receipt of intergenerational wealth transfers. In these countries, large transfers increase overall wealth inequality. Strengthening taxation capacity and instating lifetime capital acquisitions tax for gifts and inheritances may help counter the dis-equalising effect of intergenerational transfers.

Lorenzo Codogno, Giancarlo Corsetti, 18 September 2020

The EU Recovery Plan agreed upon in July 2020 supports investment activity through grants and loans to member states at close-to-zero interest rates. This column suggests that its implementation could give a substantial boost to the economy and fiscal revenues under very conservative assumptions on multipliers. In addition, as the ECB is keeping interest rates and government bond yields low, also through its asset purchase programmes, if it refrains from reacting forcefully to potential upward pressures on prices caused by the massive fiscal stimulus, even a gradual and delayed ‘normalisation’ of interest rates would not undermine debt sustainability. 

Michele Valsecchi, Ruben Durante, 02 September 2020

Many internal migrants returned to their place of origin after the initial outbreaks of COVID-19 and before national lockdowns were in place. Has this behaviour contributed to the further spread of the pandemic and to its heavy death toll? Looking at the case of Italy and using data on the place of origin and destination of internal migrants, this column finds that provinces more exposed to return migration from areas hit by the pandemic earlier on experienced considerably more COVID-19 deaths in the ensuing months.

Sebastian Blesse, Massimo Bordignon, Pierre C Boyer, Piergiorgio Carapella, Friedrich Heinemann, Eckhard Janeba, Anasuya Raj, 18 August 2020

The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has the potential to change the institutional design of the European Union (EU). This column analyses survey data asking parliamentarians from France, Italy, and Germany about their stances on a broad range of reform issues covering fiscal and monetary policies as well as EU governance mechanisms. It finds that in general, party membership is quantitatively more important than nationality in determining political stances. Further, while national parliaments still differ on many policies, a broader consensus emerges for reforms on EU institutions such as providing the EU parliament with the right of proposing new legislation.

Marco Le Moglie, Giuseppe Sorrenti, 01 August 2020

Criminal organisations invest vast sums of money within the legal economies of many countries worldwide. These investments provide criminal organisations with a powerful tool to raise forms of social consensus in some portions of the population. This column provides a characterisation of organised crime’s investment in Italy’s legal economy, a country historically plagued by the presence of criminal groups. The results indicate that during periods of economic and social downturn, organised crime may capitalise on the weaknesses of the institutional response to the crisis, consolidating and possibly expanding, its role as an investor in the legal economy.

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