Simeon Djankov, Eva (Yiwen) Zhang, 03 March 2021

Steep falls in entrepreneurial activity were recorded in early 2020 across G7 economies. In the US, however, the creation of US startups shot up by 24% relative to the previous year. This column uses data on new company applications in the US since 2004 to show that firm birth generally accelerates in the aftermath of economic crises and that this pattern was particularly pronounced in 2020, fuelled by the government assistance provided to small businesses. It also shows that US firm births are estimated to have surpassed firm deaths in 2020, unlike in the aftermath of the previous financial crisis.

Mike Andrews, Alexander Whalley, 20 February 2021

We have witnessed significant changes in economic geography over the last years. However, little is known about the spatial concentration of innovation over time. This column uses a novel dataset containing the location of all US patents between 1836 to 2016 to analyse the geography of innovation over time. It finds that while concentration was as high as it is today in the late 1860s, it has seen a substantial decline thereafter, remaining at significantly lower levels for the larger part of the 20th century. It further finds substantial turnover in the identities of top inventing places.

Leticia Abad, Noel Maurer, 19 February 2021

While the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to have affected the 2020 US presidential elections, it had remarkably little effect on the electoral returns. This column compares the situation to the 1918 influenza pandemic and examines whether the flu pandemic affected US congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential elections during 1918–1920. Flu deaths did have a small effect on elections – voters did indeed blame incumbent parties for bad health outcomes. However, it appears they cared about other things much more.

Samuel Delpeuch, Etienne Fize, Philippe Martin, 12 February 2021

How much can trade imbalances account for the rise in protectionism of the past ten years? This column reveals that both bilateral and multilateral trade imbalances are strong predictors of protectionist attacks, partly – but not entirely – driven by the US and the Trump years. Moreover, countries with more expansionary fiscal policies react to the ensuing trade imbalance by a more protectionist trade policy. A transatlantic gap in the fiscal response to the COVID crisis may therefore pave the way to renewed trade tensions.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, 06 February 2021

Trust is a crucial norm in any democratic system. And respect for the truth, as well as support for the institutions that uphold it, are fundamental for a functioning market economy. This column argues that recent controversies in the US, as well as the UK, have seen this norm begin to erode, and that this may have negative effects for democracies and economies worldwide. Citing evidence from Iceland, the author argues that unless reforms are implemented soon, advocates for democracy may see greater power slide into the hands of those who propagate mistruths for their own material gain.

Dirk Niepelt, 05 February 2021

The role of central bank digital currency is increasingly being discussed, both in terms of its utility in monetary policy as well as the controversy of bank-level profit from money creation. This column presents a method for quantifying the funding cost reduction enjoyed by banks, highlighting that money creation substantially contributes to profits. This raises important questions for policymakers to address as they seek to optimise the deployment of digital currencies within financial institutions.

Chad Bown, Paola Conconi, Aksel Erbahar, Lorenzo Trimarchi, 03 February 2021

In a world in which production processes are fragmented across countries, the effects of tariffs propagate along supply chains, with firms in downstream industries suffering from protection upstream.  This column studies the effects of US antidumping duties applied against China – its most frequent target – over 1988-2016 on US firms in downstream sectors. It finds that tariffs have large negative effects on downstream industries, increasing production costs and decreasing employment, wages, sales, and investment.

Alex Chernoff, Casey Warman, 02 February 2021

COVID-19 may accelerate the automation of jobs, as employers invest in technology to safeguard against pandemics. This column uses survey data from the US to show that women with medium to low levels of wages and education are at the highest risk of COVID-induced automation.

Branko Milanovic, 29 January 2021

In classical capitalism, the rich earn their money from capital while the poor sell the value of their labour. In which countries is that still true, and how does it affect the gap between rich and poor? Branko Milanovic tells Tim Phillips about a new way in which we can think about inequality.

Casey Mulligan, 28 January 2021

The spread of COVID-19 in the US has prompted extraordinary steps by individuals and institutions to limit infections. Some worry that ‘the cure is worse than the disease’ and these measures may lead to an increase in deaths of despair. Using data from the US, this column estimates how many non-COVID-19 excess deaths have occurred during the pandemic. Mortality in 2020 significantly exceeds the total of official COVID-19 deaths and a normal number of deaths from other causes. Certain characteristics suggest the excess are deaths of despair. Social isolation may be part of the mechanism that turns a pandemic into a wave of deaths of despair; further studies are needed to show if that is the case and how. 

Chiara Farronato, Jessica Fong, Andrey Fradkin, 24 January 2021

Mergers between digital platforms frequently attract widespread attention, not just from the media but from researchers in economics and law as well. This column explores the effects of a merger between two rival platforms, using the case of the two largest US two-sided markets for dog sitting. The results of the study suggest that online users are, on average, no better off with a single dominant platform compared to two competitors. The authors argue that this net effect is the result of two counterbalancing forces: network effects and platform differentiation.

Nikhil Agarwal, Charles Hodgson, Paulo Somaini, 17 January 2021

In the US, most patients who need a kidney transplant must participate in a centralised deceased-donor kidney allocation mechanism. The allocation system seeks to make the best use of available organs and maximise ‘life years from transplant’. This column estimates the life years from transplant generated by the US kidney assignment system, using data on transplants and outcomes for patients on the waiting list between 2000 and 2010. Patient choice to reject or accept the transplant increases life years from transplant. The policy goal to maximise life years from transplant would result in younger, healthier patients receiving transplants at the expense of older, more urgently sick patients.

Adnan Seric, Holger Görg, Wan-Hsin Liu, Michael Windisch, 07 January 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of the global trade network underpinning global value chains. Initial disruptions in the supply chains for key medical goods due to surges in demand and newly erected trade barriers have prompted policymakers around the world to question their country’s reliance on foreign suppliers and international production networks. This column takes a closer look at China’s post-pandemic recovery and argues that its response may hold clues to the future of global value chains.

Scott Baker, Aniket Baksy, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, Jonathan Rodden, 22 December 2020

Elections can cause economic uncertainty, especially when elections take place in a politically polarised context. This column studies how national election cycles in 23 countries influence economic policy uncertainty, as measured by the share of newspaper articles that discusses uncertainty and economic policy. Economic policy uncertainty clearly rises in the months leading up to national elections. Average economic policy uncertainty values are 13% higher in the month before and the month of national elections than in other months during the same election cycle. In the US, economic policy uncertainty increases are especially pronounced around close and highly polarised presidential elections. 

Catherine Maclean, Justine Mallatt, Christopher J. Ruhm, Kosali Simon, 20 December 2020

Opioid misuse in the US is estimated to cost over $500 billion annually, with fatalities from opioid overdoses exceeding the American death count from the Vietnam War. This column examines the causes and consequences of the opioid crisis, based on a review of more than 100 economic studies. Policies such as prescription drug monitoring programmes, pill mill laws, prescribing limits, and doctor-shopping laws reduce opioid prescribing. However, their effects may be more limited in environments where many have already become addicted to opioids. 

Simeon Djankov, Tea Trumbic, Eva (Yiwen) Zhang, 14 December 2020

The global pandemic has exacerbated the gender pay gap for many, but not all, advanced economies. This column examines evidence from eight countries to show that certain policy responses to the pandemic have better served women’s participation in the labour force than others – notably those tailored to flexible working to accommodate home and childcare responsibilities, as well as those serving industries with greater participation by women. Such policies should be taken into account, especially as historically the reintegration of women into the labour force can take time after a crisis.

Anna McDougall, George Orlov, Douglas McKee, 10 December 2020

Many higher learning institutions have shifted to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although research has found that online classes can be just as effective as in-person classes, there is evidence that suggests disadvantaged students may perform relatively worse. This column compares student performance on a set of standard assessments at four PhD-granting institutions in the US before and after the switch to online classes. It finds little evidence that disadvantaged groups were further disadvantaged by the pandemic in their college learning. Instructor experience with online teaching and the use of active-learning techniques have a positive effect on student outcomes.

Umut Akovali, Kamil Yilmaz, 10 December 2020

Balancing the trade-off between strict public health measures and economic activity has been the key concern for governments since the Covid-19 outbreak. This column studies Covid-19 infections and their connectedness across US states.  It finds that states with lax government policy and community mobility response had higher case growth trajectories and generated connectedness of Covid-19 cases to other states.  Further, states with Republican governors tend to have higher connectedness of Covid-19 cases among themselves and generate net connectedness to states with Democratic governors.

Matthew Spiegel, Heather E. Tookes, 07 December 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues worldwide, policymakers are still grappling with the question of which non-pharmaceutical policy interventions are effective. In the US, state and county policies varied widely, as did the growth in fatalities due to COVID-19. This column examines US business policies to help shed light on which policies save more lives. Stay-at-home orders, mandatory mask requirements, beach and park closures, restaurant closures, and high-risk (Level 2) business closures most consistently predict lower fatality growth four to six weeks ahead. Closures of low- and medium-risk businesses do not appear effective and, despite their costs, may even be counterproductive.

Kristina Bluwstein, Michał Brzoza-Brzezina, Paolo Gelain, Marcin Kolasa, 07 December 2020

Transmission of monetary policy depends to a large extent on the phase of the housing cycle. This is because residential property prices are important determinants of banks’ willingness to lend. This column presents analysis for the US which shows that in the mature phase of the housing market boom, or immediately after a bust began, the effects of a monetary expansion were smaller than they were earlier in the housing cycle. This is relevant for central banks which are considering responding to the Covid-19 pandemic by easing monetary policy during a period of relatively high house prices.

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