Cormac Ó Gráda, 02 September 2019

Of WWII’s warring powers only the Soviet Union suffered mass starvation, but as this column, part of a Vox debate on the economics of WWII, describes, it is a measure of the war’s global reach that 20 to 25 million civilians died of hunger or hunger-related diseases outside Europe. In Britain effective rationing ensured a ‘fair’ distribution of food supplies throughout the war and in Germany the famine conditions experienced in 1918-19 were not replicated, but Japan was facing semi-starvation at war’s end. In Europe, apart from Greece and the Soviet Union, famine mortality was modest, but 3-5% of the populations of faraway Bengal, Henan, and Java perished. 

Vincenzo Bove, Leandro Elia, Massimiliano Ferraresi, 25 August 2019

Between 2014 and 2017, more than 600,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean and took up residence in Italy. Though crime rates during the same period continued to drop, a majority of Italians report feeling increasingly unsafe. This column investigates how immigration affects the perception of crime and the allocation of resources. Using detailed Italian government-spending figures along with municipal-level data on the population of foreign-born residents, it finds that immigration led to increased spending for police protection due not to higher crime rates but to the deterioration of social capital and unfounded fears of criminality.

Paolo Acciari, Alberto Polo, Gianluca Violante, 13 July 2019

Intergenerational mobility is viewed as a proxy for a fair and fluid society, as it sheds light on the extent to which individuals with different initial conditions are presented with equal opportunities to succeed. This column investigates intergenerational income mobility in Italy and finds income persistence to be quite linear, except at the very top of the income distribution. It also finds a steep difference by region, with provinces in the north being more egalitarian and more upwardly mobile than in the south.

Michele Cantarella, Nicolò Fraccaroli, Roberto Volpe, 11 July 2019

'Fake news' has undeniably been biased in favour of populist or anti-establishment parties. As politically charged misinformation has been proliferating online, it is no wonder that many have been questioning whether the spread of fake news has affected the results of recent elections, contributing to the growth of populist party platforms. This column examines evidence from a natural experiment occurring in Italy and discusses how fake news might have played a less than obvious role in influencing political preferences during the general elections of 2018.

Tito Boeri, Andrea Ichino, Enrico Moretti, Johanna Posch, 13 April 2019

In many European countries, wages are determined by collective bargaining agreements intended to improve wages and reduce inequality. This column compares the impact of different wage bargaining models in Italy, which has limited geographical wage differences in nominal terms and almost no relationship between local productivity and local nominal wages, and Germany, which has a tighter link between local wages and local productivity. The Italian system is successful at reducing nominal wage inequality, but creates costly geographic imbalances. If Italy were to adopt the German system, aggregate employment and earnings would increase by 11.04% and 7.45%, respectively. 

Agata Maida, Andrea Weber, 15 March 2019

Mandated gender quotas in Italy have been successful at increasing the number of women on boards. But the relevant law is temporary and affects only a small number of firms. The column uses evidence on employment and earnings to show no increase in female representation at the top executive level or among top earners. This may be because norms and perceptions take time to change, or because newly appointed women in senior roles wield limited power.

Marco Casari, Andrea Ichino, Moti Michaeli, Maria De Paola, Ginevra Marandola, Vincenzo Scoppa, 05 February 2019

Although differences in social capital have been linked to a variety of outcomes, we know little about why it varies in the first place. Using experimental data from high schools in the north and south of Italy, this column argues that migration is one possible explanation. It finds that civic students in the south are more likely to emigrate when the local share of civic peers is either low or high compared to when it takes an intermediate value, while the opposite happens for uncivic students. Migration thus causes a ‘civicness drain’. 

Thorsten Beck, 04 February 2019

Alberto Alesina, Michela Carlana, Eliana La Ferrara, Paolo Pinotti, 02 February 2019

There is a lively debate whether biased behaviour can be changed through the use of ‘implicit bias training’ or awareness of stereotypes. Yet, there is no causal evidence to guide this debate. Using data on teachers’ stereotypes toward immigrants elicited through an Implicit Association Test in Italy, this column studies how revealing to teachers their own test score impacts their grading of immigrant and native students. Revealing stereotypes may be a powerful intervention to decrease discrimination; however, it may also induce a reaction from individuals who were not acting in a biased way.

Guido Friebel, Miriam Manchin, Mariapia Mendola, Giovanni Prarolo, 02 February 2019

There is a general understanding that illegal migration only exists because of the smuggling industry. However, there is no reliable information on how migrants’ intent to leave their home country and come to Europe, for example, depends on the availability of smuggling services. This column uses data on migrant flows arriving at European borders after the effective opening to Libyan refugees of the central Mediterranean migration route, following the 2011 fall of the Gaddafi regime, to estimate the supply elasticity of the lucrative smuggling industry. Findings indicate that when the smuggling distance between country-pairs gets shorter, there is an increase in individual intentions to migrate.

Giulia Giupponi, Camille Landais, 25 January 2019

Labour hoarding – the practice of retaining excess employees during a negative shock – could potentially help firms avoid re-hiring and training costs when economic conditions improve and act as a form of insurance for workers. This column uses Italian micro data to show how labour hoarding in the form of short-term work programmes can be beneficial despite being ineffective in the long term.

Enrica Maria Martino, Edoardo Di Porto , Paolo Naticchioni, 24 January 2019

Legalisation of immigrant workers is a simple policy to implement and can be very effective in reducing undeclared labour, yet economists know relatively little about how host economies are affected. This column analyses Italy's largest ever legalisation to examine how the policy affects firms’ employment, shapes legalised migrants workers’ careers, and affects their co-workers. Despite regularising firms experiencing only very short-lasting employment growth, legalised migrants remained strongly attached to the formal labour market. High mobility of migrants to other firms, provinces and industries is an important driver of the results, helping to ensure that co-workers’ careers were not affected by the reform.

Ufuk Akcigit, Salome Baslandze, Francesca Lotti, 30 November 2018

Corruption, especially rent-seeking behaviour by politicians and firms, has adverse consequences for competition and ultimately growth. This column explores how political connections influence firms’ outcomes in Italy. The results point to a ‘leadership paradox’, whereby market-leading firms are more likely to be politically connected than their competitors, but less likely to innovate. At the aggregate level, political connections tend to be associated with worse industry dynamics, including lower entry, reallocation, growth, and productivity.

Maia Güell, Michele Pellizzari, Giovanni Pica, Sevi Rodriguez Mora, 26 November 2018

Measuring intergenerational mobility and understanding its drivers is key to removing the obstacles to equal opportunities and assuring a level playing field in access to jobs and education. This column uses the informational content of Italian surnames to show that social mobility varies greatly across regions in the country, and that it correlates positively with economic activity, education and social capital, and negatively with inequality. The findings suggest that policies and political institutions are unlikely to be the main drivers of geographical differences in social mobility.

Alfonso Rosolia, 14 September 2018

Given the role firms play in the transmission of monetary policy decisions, it is useful to understand how they form their inflation expectations. The column uses data from Italy to show that firms are attentive to the economic environment, even if they are not completely aware of the latest developments. They are also able to extract relevant information to update their expectations from ECB communications.

Audinga Baltrunaite, Cristina Giorgiantonio, Sauro Mocetti, Tommaso Orlando, 26 July 2018

Public procurement outcomes crucially depend on the ability of the procuring agency to select high-performing suppliers. This column uses Italian data to explore how public administrator discretion affects public resource allocation. Greater discretion results in reallocation towards politically connected, low-performing firms. These adverse effects are driven by lower-quality procuring agencies.

Francesca Carta, Lucia Rizzica, 26 June 2018

A growing number of advanced economies are opting for highly subsidised childcare systems. But studies have shown mixed effects of subsidised childcare on children’s outcomes, suggesting a potential trade-off between promoting female labour supply and providing the best care for children. This column shows that an expansion of subsidised childcare in Italy increased female labour supply without hurting children’s outcomes. Childcare could be made more cost-effective by making it conditional on the mother’s employment status, or incentivising firms to provide corporate childcare options.

Antonio Fatás, 16 June 2018

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