Moritz Schularick, Lucas ter Steege, Felix Ward, 12 January 2021

The question of whether monetary policymakers can defuse rising financial stability risks by ‘leaning against the wind’ and increasing interest rates has sparked considerable disagreement among economists. This column contributes to the debate by studying the state-dependent effects of monetary policy on financial stability, based on the ‘near-universe’ of advanced economy financial cycles since the 19th century. It shows that deploying discretionary leaning against the wind policies during credit and asset price booms are more likely to trigger crises than prevent them.

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.

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. 

Sebastian Edwards, 10 November 2020

While today almost every advanced nation has a flexible exchange rate regime similar to that advocated by Milton Friedman, most emerging countries continue to have ‘conventional peg’. This column draws on the historical work of Milton Friedman to examine the conditions under which he thought that flexible rates were the right system for developing countries, and when he thought that it was appropriate to have an alternative regime. 

Benny Kleinman, Ernest Liu, Stephen Redding, 17 September 2020

The increasingly prominent role of China in the world economy has led to widespread discussions concerning the balance of power, trade relations, and economic development. This column presents a new ‘friends and enemies’ model which is used to show that significant growth and welfare effects have stemmed from China’s shifting role, and that changes in trading clusters have varied across different sectors. The findings also suggest that as countries become less economically friendly in terms of the welfare effects of their productivity growth, they also become less politically friendly in terms of foreign policy. 

Itamar Drechsler, Alexi Savov, Philipp Schnabl, 11 September 2020

In a recent speech in Jackson Hole, Fed Chair Jay Powell laid out the Fed’s new monetary policy framework.  Under this framework, the Fed will allow inflation to run above its 2% target in order to boost employment following a downturn.  The new framework marks a departure from the perceived wisdom of the 1970s’ Great Inflation.  Under this perceived wisdom, the Fed must respond aggressively to rising inflation or risk losing its credibility and letting inflation spiral out of control.  New research on the Great Inflation challenges this perceived wisdom and offers a new explanation for what really drives inflation.  Instead of Fed credibility, this explanation puts the financial system and how it transmits monetary policy front and centre.  In doing so, it reconciles the 1970s with the current environment and provides a foundation for understanding why the Fed’s new framework is unlikely to trigger runaway inflation.

João Guerreiro, Sérgio Rebelo, Pedro Teles, 09 September 2020

Immigration policy has become a hot-button issue in both Europe and the US, with questions concerning optimal policy as well as the welfare state dominating discussions. This column revisits the idea of the immigration surplus, exploring a number of possible scenarios in terms of how policymakers should address the challenge. Correctly configuring fiscal policy so as to capture the benefits of both high- and low-skill immigrant (and native) workers is at the heart of optimal policy design and may help to address the swelling anti-immigrant sentiment that continues to exist in many countries today. 

Pilar Nogues-Marco, Alfonso Herranz-Loncán, Nektarios Aslanidis, 13 August 2020

The adoption of the euro, for all its flaws, constituted a giant step in the process of full integration between the European economies. It also reproduced at a larger scale the dynamics of monetary unification that took place during the 19thcentury. This column presents a historical study of Spain, evaluating the changes in the internal money market. The analysis suggests that transaction costs undertook a sustained decline over the 19th century. By contrast, the efficiency of the market did not improve before the 1880s, perhaps due to a shift in monetary leadership changes in national economic geography.

Daniel Gallardo Albarrán, Robert Inklaar, 31 July 2020

Modern economic growth has improved the lives of millions in an unprecedented way, but its unequal progression across the globe has resulted in high income inequality. Most of the cross-country differences in income levels are typically attributed to differences in productivity rather than to physical or human capital accumulation. This column argues that this has not always been the case: physical capital accounted for a much larger fraction of income variation at the beginning of the 20th century. More generally, the results of the study call for a reevaluation of the long-term determinants of relative economic performance over time.

Sascha O. Becker, Jared Rubin, Ludger Woessmann, 12 July 2020

Over the past two decades, analysis of the relevance of religion has entered centre stage in the study of economic history, addressing questions such as how religion and religious beliefs in God and the afterlife have historically affected economies, and how historical socioeconomic circumstances have shaped religious beliefs and activities. This column derives a few general insights emerging from the rapidly growing literature.

Reshad N Ahsan, Laura Panza, Yong Song, 18 April 2020

While the relationship between trade and war is ambiguous, some argue that diminished trade can pose a threat to global peace by lowering both the opportunity costs of war and the cost of raising an army. This column examines the relationship between Atlantic trade and war in Europe between 1640 and 1896, a period in which intra-European conflict decreased dramatically. It finds that the growth in Atlantic trade lowered the probability of intra-European conflict by 15 percentage points.

Gregori Galofré Vilà, 13 January 2020

Economic history is a thriving subset of the field. This column uses network analysis to review the development of the discipline over the last 40 years. It illustrates how economic historians are interconnected through their research, identifies which scholars are the most cited by their peers, and reveals the central debates enlivening the discipline. It also shows that the rapid increase in the number of economic history publications since 2000 has been driven more by research at universities in continental Europe than by those in the US or UK.

Gareth Campbell, Richard Grossman, John Turner, 04 September 2019

Although long-run stock market data are an important indicator, obtaining them is challenging. This column constructs new long-run broad-based indices of equities traded on British securities markets for the period 1829-1929 and combines them with a more recent index to examine the timing of British business cycles and compare returns on home and foreign UK investment. One finding is that the capital gains index of blue-chip companies appears to be a good bellwether of macroeconomic behaviour.

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.

Morgan Kelly, 05 July 2019

A large literature on persistence finds that many modern outcomes strongly reflect characteristics of the same places in the past. Although these regressions feature unusually high t statistics, they usually also display severe spatial autocorrelation in residuals. Exploiting data from 28 persistence studies published in leading journals, this column runs artificial regressions where both variables are spatial noise and shows that this produces severely inflated t statistics. Replicating published studies shows that in most cases the main persistence variable frequently has lower explanatory power than spatial noise but can, in turn, strongly predict spatial noise.

, 17 May 2019

How economic history can inform practical decision making.

Diane Coyle, 25 June 2018

Jutta Bolt, Robert Inklaar, Herman de Jong, Jan Luiten van Zanden, 25 January 2018

Research on long-run economic development has relied heavily on the database compiled by Angus Maddison. This column presents a new version of the Maddison Project Database based on historical growth data, but also incorporating historical cross-country income comparisons. The revisions shed new light on patterns of long-term development and cross-country income convergence.

Robert Margo, 03 September 2017

Specialist economic historians in the US today behave, and are rewarded, in similar ways to other economists. Mainstream economists also publish articles on economic history. This column argues that this is the culmination of a process of integration of history and econometrics that started with the cliometrics revolution in the 1950s. If this continues however, there is a risk that the demand for economic historians with the skills to ‘get the history right’ might dry up.


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