Sanjeev Gupta, Michael Keen, Alpa Shah, Geneviève Verdier, 07 March 2018

Digitalisation has vastly increased our ability to collect and exploit the information that governments use to implement macroeconomic policy. The column argues that the ability of governments to use the vast amounts of information held in the private sector on financial transactions are already making fiscal policy more efficient and effective. Problems of access to digital technology, cybersecurity risks, and the difficulty of organisational change in the public sector may slow the pace at which these opportunities are exploited.

Morgan Kelly, Cormac Ó Gráda, 27 January 2018

The consensus among economic (but not maritime) historians that maritime technology was more or less stagnant for 300 years until iron steamships appeared in the mid-19th century is largely based on indirect measures, such as changes in the cost of shipping freight or the length of voyages. This column instead looks directly at how the speed of ships in different winds improved over time. The speed of British ships rose by around half between 1750 and 1830 (albeit from a low base) thanks to innovations like the copper plating of hulls and the move from wooden to iron joints and bolts.

Jonathan Haskel, Stian Westlake, 23 January 2018

Many economists have suggested that slowing technical innovation is behind the secular stagnation and slowdown in total factor productivity growth that have plagued many advanced economies since the Global Crisis. This column argues that the recent rise of the intangible economy could play an important role. An assessment of measurement trends and the properties of intangible investment across the globe suggests that total factor productivity growth will continue to be low until governments design the institutions an intangible economy needs, and until its commercial, legal, and ethical norms are worked out.

Gaetano Basso, Giovanni Peri, Ahmed Rahman, 12 January 2018

The US and Europe have both seen wage polarisation in the last three decades, in parallel with increasing technical automation. This column analyses the impact of immigration on this wage divergence via its effect on the labour supply side. It finds that immigration partially reverses natives’ polarisation of employment opportunities and wages by expanding aggregate demand and allowing natives to move to better paying occupations. Policies to reduce low-skilled migration with the aim of favouring native middle-class labour market opportunities may in fact do the opposite.

Ravi Kanbur, 08 January 2018

Technological innovation is broadly accepted as a driving force behind diverging wage trends in the last three decades. If this is set to continue, policymakers must choose how to respond to the ensuing income inequality. This column assesses two established policy response ideas – state-sponsored formal education, and tax and transfer mechanisms – and postulates a third, namely, that the pace and distributional effects of technological change should themselves be policy goals. A policy intervention that would make innovation more labour intensive would be the most powerful response of all.

Richard Baldwin, Vesa Vihriälä, 19 December 2017

Despite the setbacks globalisation has faced in recent years from reactionary politics, the advent of artificial intelligence and robotisation are set to ensure its continuation. Domestic policy must therefore be designed in such a way as to reap the rewards of globalisation while avoiding its pitfalls. This column uses the case of Finland to show how this can be done. Finland has grown faster than its peers over two waves of globalisation, despite enduring substantial setbacks. In both its successes and challenges, it is an important example of the need for deliberate policies to prepare for future disruptions.

Xavi Cirera, Edwin A. Goñi Pacchioni, William Maloney, 29 November 2017

Innovation is widely seen as central to the growth of developing countries, and available evidence suggests that the returns to R&D investment should be extremely high.  Yet low-income countries invest very little. This column suggests that this is due to the increasing scarcity of a wide array of factors complementary to innovation, and that this explains the lack of convergence of low-income countries to the technological frontier.    

Christopher Pissarides, 15 November 2017

The European economy is recovering from the crisis. Christopher Pissarides argues that supply side economics need to be addressed to increase competitiveness and productivity. This video was recorded at the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences in September 2017.

David Atkin, Azam Chaudhry, Amit Khandelwal, Eric Verhoogen, 06 November 2017

Eric Verhoogen, 19 October 2017

Nicholas Bloom, Chad Jones, John Van Reenen, Michael Webb, 20 September 2017

The rate of productivity growth in advanced economies has been falling. Optimists hope for a fourth industrial revolution, while pessimists lament that most potential productivity growth has already occurred. This column argues that data on the research effort across all industries shows the costs of extracting ideas have increased sharply over time. This suggests that unless research inputs are continuously raised, economic growth will continue to slow in advanced nations.

David Byrne, Dan Sichel, 22 August 2017

One explanation given for the apparent recent slowdown in labour productivity growth in advanced economies is poor measurement. This column argues that while the available evidence on mismeasurement does not in fact provide an explanation for the slowdown, innovation is much more rapid than would be inferred from official measures, and on-going gains in the digital economy make the productivity slowdown even more puzzling. At the same time, this continued technical advance could provide the basis for a future pickup in productivity growth.

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.

Hidemichi Fujii, Shunsuke Managi, 16 June 2017

Patent applications are a good indicator of the nature of technological progress. This column compares trends in applications for artificial intelligence patents in Japan and the US. One finding is that the Japanese market appears to be less attractive for artificial intelligence technology application, perhaps due to its stricter regulations on the collection and use of data.

Georg Graetz, Guy Michaels, 13 May 2017

Recoveries from recessions in the US used to involve rapid job generation, but job growth has failed to match GDP recovery after recent US recessions. This column examines the role of technology in this and asks whether jobless recoveries are a wider problem outside of the US. In the US, industries that are more prone to technological change experienced slower job growth during recent recoveries, but it appears unlikely that modern technologies are causing jobless recoveries outside of the US. This poses a puzzle as to the nature of recent jobless US recoveries. 

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. 

Adrian Wood, 18 March 2017

In defending trade from misguided protectionism, economists argue that the main killer of manufacturing employment around the world has been technology, not trade. This column explores how globalisation has caused the sectoral structures of countries to conform more closely to their factor endowments. In the skill-abundant developed regions, manufacturing became more skill-intensive, while in skill-scarce and land-scarce Asia, labour-intensive manufacturing expanded. In land-abundant developing Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, by contrast, manufacturing contracted.

Biagio Bossone, 25 January 2017

Electronic money – digital payment instruments that store value – can be seen simply as a technological innovation for holding and accessing regular money. This column argues that how it is used and regulated will determine whether e-money instead serves as a replacement for existing money, and discusses the regulatory implications.

Daron Acemoğlu, Ufuk Akcigit, William Kerr, 20 January 2017

Innovation is typically seen as a cumulative process, with new technologies building on existing knowledge - but our knowledge of how progress in a specific area is influenced by knowledge in other, ‘upstream’ areas is limited. Using US patent data, this column identifies a stable ‘innovation network’ that serves as a conduit for cumulative knowledge development. Technological advances in one field can advance progress in multiple neighbouring fields, but will have a stronger influence on more closely related areas.



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