Luc Laeven, Peter McAdam, Alexander Popov, 10 December 2018

There are good arguments both in favour and against the idea that more labour market flexibility will deliver benefits to an economy during a downturn. This column presents novel evidence on this question, using data from Spain during the 2008–09 credit crunch. The results show that credit-constrained firms grow faster if they are subject to less strict firing and hiring restrictions, as long as they are technologically able to substitute labour for capital. The findings provide an argument in favour of more flexible labour laws.

Stephen Redding, David Weinstein, 02 January 2018

Existing research on export heterogeneity between countries has typically focused on the importance of individual factors. This column presents a unified framework for understanding these contributions in concert. Using US and Chilean data, it demonstrates that products within firms, firms within sectors, and sectors in aggregate are indeed imperfect substitutes. It further shows that models that assume no quality shifts and no changes in variety perform poorly on trade data.

Robert Duval-Hernández, Lei Fang, Liwa Rachel Ngai, 23 October 2017

Economists have tended to focus on the role of taxation in accounting for the wide variation in average hours worked across OECD countries. This column argues that the differences are driven by women, particularly women without a college degree. As taxation rises, women are more likely than men to reduce the hours they work. Social subsidies for family care reduce the price of substitutable market services, resulting in women working more.

James Bessen, 22 September 2016

A popular notion is that computer automation leads to major job losses. However, this ignores the dynamic economic responses that involve both changing demand and inter-occupation substitution. Using US data, this column explores the effect of automation on employment growth for detailed occupational categories. Computer-using occupations have had greater job growth to date, while those using few computers suffer greater computer-related losses. The real challenge posed by automation is developing a workforce with the skills to use new technologies.

Lorenz Kueng, Evgeny Yakovlev, 10 September 2014

Understanding consumer behaviour is crucial for many economic questions. This column looks at the persistence of consumer habits towards alcohol among Russian males. Beer sales expanded rapidly after the collapse of the Soviet Union both in levels and relative to vodka sales, driven mainly by the beer consumption of cohorts born in the 1980s and 1990s. The authors estimate that this trend will reduce the male mortality rate in Russia by one quarter in the next 20 years.

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