Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 17 September 2019

Tariff threats, hikes, and retaliations have become a major source of economic uncertainty and stock market volatility. This column draws on three initiatives to demonstrate that recent rise in trade policy uncertainty, driven by the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, tariff hikes on US steel and aluminium imports, ongoing Brexit uncertainty, and escalating US-China trade tensions, is extraordinary by several metrics. 

Johannes Eugster, Florence Jaumotte, Margaux MacDonald, Roberto Piazza, 10 September 2019

Bilateral trade balances have come under scrutiny recently, with some policymakers concerned that their large and rising size may reflect asymmetric obstacles to trade. This column argues that macroeconomic factors – rather than bilateral tariffs – have been the key drivers of the evolution of bilateral trade balances. While tariffs have played a modest role in the evolution of bilateral balances, declines in tariffs have lifted productivity by allowing a greater international division of labour, including through participation in global value chains. A sharp increase in tariffs would therefore create significant spillovers, leaving the global economy worse off. 

Daniel Gros, 09 September 2019

Traditional analysis of tariffs in a partial equilibrium setting can tell us much about the welfare consequences of the US-China trade war. The column argues that, as tariffs ratchet up, welfare costs for both sides increase disproportionately. The cost of trade diversion in the US to less-efficient suppliers likely overwhelms any terms-of-trade gain the US might enjoy. In all cases, exporters in the rest of the world benefit.

Marco Di Maggio, Ankit Kalda, Vincent Yao, 07 September 2019

Rising student debt is considered one of the creeping threats of our time. This column examines the effect of student-debt relief on individual credit and labour market outcomes. Following debt relief, distressed borrowers reduce their indebtedness by 26% and are 11% less likely to default on other accounts. After the discharge, the borrowers’ geographical mobility and probability of changing jobs increase. Ultimately, their income increases by about $3,000 over a three-year period. 

Alan Bollard, 05 September 2019

The World Wars precipitated unprecedented economic problems in all countries. This column, part of a Vox debate on the economics of WWII, describes how economists played a larger role in WWII than in any previous conflict. They advanced the methods of public finance and influenced the directions of the war effort. By the end of the war, economists were widely embedded in government and policymaking.

Robert J. Gordon, Hassan Sayed, 29 August 2019

Since 2005, productivity growth in the US and Europe has dipped below 1%. Using new industry-level from the US and ten EU countries, this column shows that that the industrial composition of the slowdown was similar in Europe and the US. Falling multifactor productivity growth explains both the magnitude and composition of falling productivity growth on both sides of the Atlantic. Decelerating technical change, rather than slowing investment, was the primary driving force in the transatlantic slowdown. 

Michael Reich, 23 August 2019

The US has an epidemic of "deaths of despair". Michael Reich tells Tim Phillips that new research implies that a $15 minimum wage doesn't just cut poverty, it also saves lives. But is Congress listening?

Bernard Hoekman, Petros Mavroidis, 26 August 2019

In December 2019, the WTO Appellate Body will cease to operate unless the US stops blocking new appointments. This column argues that the Appellate Body should stick to the mandate that was agreed in 1995 and not overstep it, as requested by the US. At the same time, the WTO adjudication process should be reformed by increasing the use of economics in panel reports, by improving the quality of panellists and Appellate Body members, by reducing the politicisation of appointments, and by changing the modus operandi of dispute settlement. 

Shari Eli, Trevon Logan, Boriana Miloucheva, 20 August 2019

The mortality gap between blacks and whites in the US has been well documented, but there is still considerable debate over why the gap has remained so large and why it has persisted over the last century. This column explores these questions using unique data on black and white Civil War veterans to measure one of the earliest known incidences of physician bias against African Americans. It shows that physician bias had large effects on income and longevity of blacks relative to whites and considers the ways in which doctor attitudes still contribute to the racial mortality gap today. 

Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang, 16 August 2019

Externalities can have a powerful effect on financial stability. This column studies the amplification effect that can operate despite value at risk regulation, which suffers from the ‘fallacy of composition’. It shows that the magnitudes of booms and busts are amplified by two significant externalities triggered by aggregate shocks: the endogeneity of bank equity due to mark-to-market accounting and of bank liquidity due to 'fire-sales' of securitised assets. In addition to economic models, legal and political factors should also be considered. 

Matthew Jaremski, David Wheelock, 15 August 2019

In response to the Global Crisis a decade ago, banks have tried to make themselves more resilient to shocks transmitted through interbank connections. But the opacity of interbank networks makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness of such policies. This column uses evidence from 20th century America to show how the founding of the Federal Reserve and the Great Depression affected interbank networks and lending practices. The creation of the Fed reduced network concentration and therefore contagion risk, but the system remained vulnerable to local panics.

Karen Clay, Peter Juul Egedesø, Casper Worm Hansen, Peter Jensen, Avery Calkins, 13 August 2019

In the early 20th century, the US and Europe experienced striking reductions in tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, even before effective medical treatments were developed. However, evidence is mixed on whether improved public health interventions had any effect. This column analyses the effects of the first public health demonstration on TB mortality, total mortality, and infant mortality. Although generally considered a success, the findings suggest that the Framingham Demonstration in fact had little effect on TB mortality.

Fredrik Heyman, Pehr-Johan Norbäck, Lars Persson, 12 August 2019

Recent studies document a 30-year decline in various measures of dynamism in the US, manifested in a decline in the share of young firms as well as their share of job creation. This column shows that this has not been the case in Sweden. Young firms have been more prominent in the Swedish business sector than in the US in recent decades, and policies to encourage entrepreneurship are key to this.

Theresa Kuchler, Johannes Stroebel, 09 August 2019

The mixing of people and ideas in cities is at the heart of the ‘agglomeration externalities’ that drive the high productivity of cities. While public transit infrastructure is thought to help different people living in different parts of the same city to interact with one another, the lack of large-scale data has made it difficult to study. This column explores the link between public transit and social connectedness in New York City. It finds the first suggestive evidence that New York City’s public transit system plays an important role in enabling social ties to be formed and maintained across geographic distances.

Brian Beach, Walker Hanlon, 04 August 2019

How economic factors shaped the historical fertility transition is well studied but the role played by cultural factors remains disputed, in part because establishing the direct effect of social norms is difficult. This column examines the relationship between England and Wales’s rapid fertility transition in the late 19th century and media exposure to the 1877 Bradlaugh-Besant trial, which challenged existing censorship laws related to family planning. It finds that fertility declined more rapidly after 1877 in locations with greater exposure to newspaper articles about the trial.

Alma Cohen, Moshe Hazan, Roberto Tallarita, David Weiss, 24 July 2019

With power over corporate resources as well as stature and prestige in the economic system, public-company CEOs to have sizeable influence over policy and political decisions. This column examines the political donations of more than 3,800 US CEOs of S&P 1500 companies to analyse their political preferences over time, across industries and geographical regions, and by gender. It shows that US public company CEOs have a significant preference for Republicans, who may benefit from public companies’ expanded freedom to spend money on politics.

David Jacks, Dennis Novy, 23 July 2019

Against the backdrop of new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and retaliation from targeted countries, notably China, the trade wars of the 1930s have received renewed attention. This column argues that they mainly served to intensify a pre-existing trend towards the formation of trade blocs. The trade wars of the present day may therefore serve a similar purpose as those in the 1930s, that is, the intensification of China- and US-centric trade blocs.

Chad Bown, 22 July 2019

Charles Courtemanche, Art Carden, Xilin Zhou, Murugi Ndirangu, 18 July 2019

Food security is a concern even in industrialised countries, with 14.5% of US households lacking food security during at least some of the year 2012. This column examines the impact of Walmart Supercenters’ entry into the local market and finds that it improves food security, especially among low-income households and households with children. It suggests that the unintended consequences of policies aimed at thwarting Walmart’s market entry may reduce food security for the most vulnerable segments of society.

Xuepeng Liu, Huimin Shi, 11 July 2019

The US-China trade war has continued for almost a year, but its effectiveness in preventing some Chinese origin products reaching the US may not be as great as it seems. This column shows how trade re-routing has been used in the past to circumvent antidumping duties in the context of trade tariffs. Firms may be able to avoid tariffs by sending their products to a third country, where the goods are reissued certificates of origin and then sent to the final destination country without being subject to the same tariffs.

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