Christine Binzel, Andreas Link, Rajesh Ramachandran, 24 December 2020

The use of a language in written and formal contexts that is distinct from the languages used in everyday communication – such as Latin in early modern Europe and Standard Arabic in the Arabic-speaking world, both past and present – comes with benefits, but also with costs. Drawing on publishing data from early modern Europe, this column shows that the Protestant Reformation led to a sudden and sharp rise in vernacular printing, such that by the end of the 16th century, the majority of works were printed in spoken tongues rather than in Latin. This transformation allowed broader segments of society to access knowledge. It also diversified the composition of authors and book content and had long-term consequences for economic development.

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Roberto Ganau, Kristina Maslauskaite, Monica Brezzi, 15 December 2020

Does institutional quality mitigate the negative returns of credit rationing on labour productivity? Using data on a large sample of manufacturing firms in 11 European countries, this column demonstrates that this is indeed the case, especially for micro, small, and medium-sized firms. The negative effects of credit constraints on productivity are mitigated in those areas of Europe with high-quality governance. ‘Good’ regional institutions not only drive firm-level productivity but also, and in a more indirect way, reduce the negative productivity returns of credit constraints.

Marco Ranaldi, Branko Milanovic, 03 December 2020

Similar levels of income inequality may coexist with completely different distributions of capital and labor incomes. This column introduces a new measure of compositional inequality, allowing the authors to distinguish between different capitalist societies. The analysis suggests that Latin America and India are rigid ‘class-based’ societies, whereas in most of Western European and North American economies (as well as in Japan and China), the split between capitalists and workers is less sharp and inequality is moderate or low. Nordic countries are ‘class-based’ yet fairly equal. Taiwan and Slovakia are closest to classless and low inequality societies. 

Sascha O. Becker, Yuan Hsiao, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin, 27 November 2020

The Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther, was one of the most transformative periods of European (if not world) history in the second millennium. How did this movement succeed? This column offers a theory that combines relational diffusion (via Luther’s network ties) with spatial diffusion (via trade routes in the Holy Roman Empire), and substantiates this theory using data on Luther’s letters, travels, and students. Luther’s network alone does not explain the success of the Reformation, but his network in combination with the pre-existing ties created by trade routes explains much of its success.

Giorgio Barba Navaretti, Giacomo Calzolari, Alberto Pozzolo, 22 November 2020

The default of Wirecard highlights several problems in the regulation and supervision of Fintech companies, with regulatory holes in investor protection, customer protection, and financial stability. This column argues that since Fintech companies can be very complex, their oversight requires understanding their business model and combining regulation and supervision based on both entities and activities. The global reach of Fintechs also calls for better coordination at the European level and beyond, but the authors do not see the need for new regulatory body to oversee Fintechs in Europe.

Gunes Aşik, Ulaş Karakoç, Sevket Pamuk, 17 October 2020

Unlike for developed countries, only a limited number of studies exist on the long-term evolution of regional inequalities in today’s developing countries. With the help of a novel dataset, this column examines the evolution of regional income inequality within present-day borders of Turkey. It finds an inverse U-shaped pattern for regional disparities since 1880, with a peak at around 1950 (although the East lagged further behind until the end of the 20th century). A combination of causes led by geography, including proximity to Europe, structural change, industrialisation and agglomeration economies, as well as ethnic conflict and demographic movements, appear to be behind this pattern.

Janine Aron, John Muellbauer, 29 September 2020

The US has 4% of the world’s population but 21% of the global COVID-19-attributed infections and deaths. This column shows that when comparing excess mortality rates, a more robust way of reporting on pandemic deaths, Europe’s cumulative excess mortality rate from March to July is 28% lower than the US rate, contradicting the Trump administration’s claim that Europe’s rate is 33% higher. The US Northeast – the region most comparable with individual European countries – has experienced substantially worse excess mortality than Europe’s worst-affected countries. Had the US kept its excess mortality rate down to the level in Europe, around 57,800 American lives would have been saved. 

Pietro Santoleri, Andrea Mina, 19 July 2020

Direct public support for business R&D is common practice in many countries, but evidence on its causal effects has been mixed. This column exploits discontinuity in the assignment mechanism of the first large-scale European R&D grant programme to assess the impact of the policy. The results indicate that direct grants have positive and sizable effects on a wide range of firm-level outcomes suggesting that R&D grants are an effective policy tool. 

Henk Jan Reinders, Dirk Schoenmaker, Mathijs van Dijk, 13 July 2020

The severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could threaten financial stability. Since accounting-based methods report loan losses with a delay, this column adopts a real-time, market-based assessment of the impact on corporate loan portfolios. Using European stock market data, it estimates that the market-implied losses for euro area banks could reach over €1 trillion, or, depending on the scenario, 7-43% of available bank capital.

Nicolas Gonne, Olivier Hubert, 08 July 2020

The shutdown of passenger air travel at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the spread of the disease but caused major economic losses for the sector. This column presents a cost-benefit analysis of the global freeze of passenger air traffic. While any conclusion is highly dependent on a handful of factors, including the controversial and difficult-to-calculate ‘value of a statistical life’, the simulations provide useful anchoring points at a time when governments are contemplating reopening air routes, as well as in the face of a potential second wave of infections.

John Hassler, Per Krusell, Morten Ravn, Kjetil Storesletten, 07 July 2020

The responses to Covid-19 have had direct economic consequences of historic proportions. In reaction to this challenge, this column was prepared by four main authors and then discussed within a large group of research-active macroeconomists who also signed the final document. The column discusses the nature of the shock and the challenges for economic policy in Europe in the current and next phases of the crisis. In addition to outlining some basic principles for guiding domestic economic policy, it also calls for clear communication of policy to minimise uncertainty, for cooperation across countries along several dimensions, and for a clear and unified strategy in the management of national debts.

Pierre Dubois, Morten Sæthre, 04 July 2020

Differences in regulated pharmaceutical prices within the European Economic Area create arbitrage opportunities that pharmacy retailers can access through parallel imports. For prescription drugs under patent, parallel trade affects the sharing of profits among an innovating pharmaceutical company, retailers, and parallel traders. This column discusses recent findings showing that in a country which does not regulate pharmacy retailers’ margins, retailer incentives to bargain lower wholesale prices play a significant role in fostering parallel trade penetration, and that banning parallel imports would benefit manufacturers.

Philippe Aghion, Helene Maghin, André Sapir, 25 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the structural dichotomy between the models of capitalism operating in Europe and the US; the former offers better protection for its citizens while the latter shows greater economic dynamism. This column argues that for all the harm COVID-19 has caused, the crisis has also provided an opening to rethink the versions of capitalism practised on both sides of the Atlantic. Some degree of convergence towards a better model is desirable, the authors suggest, and perhaps even possible.

Alina Kristin Bartscher, Sebastian Seitz, Sebastian Siegloch, Michaela Slotwinski, Nils Wehrhöfer, 18 June 2020

In the absence of viable medical responses to combat the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, policymakers have appealed to the social responsibility of their citizens to comply with social distancing rules. This column explores how regional differences in social capital can affect the spread of Covid-19, focusing on seven European countries. The results suggest that areas with high social capital registered between 12% and 32% fewer Covid-19 cases from mid-March until mid-May. A case study of Italy validates the independent role of social capital, showing a consistent reduction in excess deaths and documenting a reduction in mobility prior to the lockdown as a mediating channel.

Thomas Plümper, Eric Neumayer, 11 June 2020

Is Covid-19 a ‘rich man’s disease’, as many citizens in poorer countries believe it to be? This column descibes how in Germany, infections began with individuals returning from skiing holidays. In the first phase of the pandemic, infection rates were higher in richer areas and lower in more socially deprived districts. In the second phase, the ability to socially distance oneself mattered more – an ability that is itself socioeconomically stratified. Richer districts are now seeing fewer new infections, and the initial safety advantage of more socially deprived districts has disappeared.

Çağatay Bircan, Ralph De Haas, Helena Schweiger, Alexander Stepanov, 03 June 2020

As lockdown measures continue, or are relaxed only gradually, many small businesses continue to experience significantly reduced turnover. This column reports on a firm-level analysis across 16 emerging markets, and three Western European comparator countries, in order to gauge the potential risks associated with debt-driven COVID-19 support. The overall goal is to prevent a wave of bankruptcies that could break valuable relationships between firms and their suppliers and employees. However, liquidity support in the form of additional bank lending may create debt-overhang problems in the future and therefore requires careful targeting.



You are invited to a CEPR Policy webinar on:
Europe in the time of Covid-19 and beyond
Join us on Wednesday 3 June 2020
13:00-14:00 (BST, London), 14:00-15:00 (CST)

Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Paris School of Economics - University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and CEPR
Beatrice Weder di Mauro, President, CEPR

Tim Phillips, CEPR 

There is no doubt that the Covid crisis represents a challenge for European unity and another crash test for the euro. Europe has been, and will likely remain, one of the most Covid-infected regions in the world and, while doing nothing was not an option and would itself have disrupted economic activity, the forceful reactions of national governments to the pandemic, through various strategies combining social distancing, testing/quarantining and lockdowns, have triggered an economic crisis at least twice the size of the 2009 crisis. Furthermore, the recovery is likely to be slow due to depressed consumption and investment, and it will require fast reallocations in both the labour market and the capital market.

A small positive observation in this crisis has been the degree of engagement of economists in an intense debate with policymakers on the appropriate responses to ëflatten the economic recession curveí and to safeguard the most impacted groups from the economic fallout of the health crisis.

Agnès Bénassy-Quéré and Beatrice Weder di Mauro have edited a new CEPR eBook, which illustrates the intense effort of the academic community during this time. Join them both in this webinar to discuss the collection of VoxEU columns that were selected for this eBook.

Register online:

Jeffrey Chwieroth, Andrew Walter, 23 May 2020

Although necessary, many of the economic policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis may end up damaging political incumbents in the medium and long term. This column presents evidence suggesting that voters expect great things from their leaders in deep crises. Yet the potential for great disappointment arises from the inevitable perceived inequities that will follow from the coronavirus crisis bailouts. As the pandemic exacerbates existing divisions within societies, the political costs predicted implies that only a minority of the most skilled political leaders are likely to survive this crisis.

Nicolas Ajzenman, Cevat Giray Aksoy, Sergei Guriev, 05 June 2020

The impact of the 2015 refugee crisis on sending and receiving societies has received significant scholarly attention. But there is little research on how the crisis affected ‘transit countries’ through which migrants travelled. This column studies 800 localities in 18 European countries to discover how local populations responded to the temporary presence of forced migrants. Data show that entrepreneurial activity of residents living closer to refugee routes fell considerably, and while anti-migrant sentiment increased in these areas, attitudes towards other minorities remained unchanged.

Helsinki Graduate School of Economics Situation Room, 21 May 2020

Effective management of the COVID-19 crisis requires real data in real time, often drawn from multiple sources. This column describes how researchers in Finland have created a remote-access ‘Situation Room’ that allows for real-time analysis of the Finnish economy, both for the government and for the wider public. The results from the study provide useful insights for policymakers in Finland and beyond.



CEPR Policy Research