Lauren Cohen, Umit Gurun, Danielle Li, 14 March 2021

Covid-19 has revealed the importance of quick, efficient, but safe medical innovation. The development of various vaccines, as well as a range of treatments, have been tech tools in the fight against the public health and economic crises. This column explores the impact of informal deadlines within the drugs market, arguing that such regulatory pressures can end up distorting product safety and marketability. The findings highlight the need for well-designed regulatory systems which allow medical innovators to move swiftly but safely during the next health shock.

Vincent Aussilloux, Adam Baïz, Matthieu Garrigue, Philippe Martin, Dimitris Mavridis, 19 February 2021

The Covid-19 crisis has presented policymakers across the euro area with an unprecedented challenge, not least of all because the shock has come to both the supply side and the demand side of the economy. This column presents a preliminary analysis of different nations’ responses so far, focusing on which measures have been deployed to address each side of the economic shock and where a ‘mixed approach’ has been taken to work in tandem. At a time where coordinated action may be needed, there is a concerning level of inconsistency in strategy. 

Gianni De Fraja, Jesse Matheson, James Rockey, Daniel Timms, 11 February 2021

The Covid-19 outbreak has led to an unprecedented rise in the number of jobs done from home. This column discusses the implications of this shift for locally consumed services such as restaurants, hairdressers, and gyms. Using precise data on the location of homes and offices of workers across the UK, it finds that there is large heterogeneity in the impact of working from home on these businesses. While city centres suffered a significant drop in demand for services, suburban neighbourhoods experienced an increase in demand. Policies aimed at helping the service industry should take this diverse impact into account.

Romesh Vaitilingam, 08 February 2021

The UK’s exit from the EU was finally completed on 1 January 2021. The IGM Forum at Chicago Booth invited its panels of leading European and US economists to express their views on the likely long-term effects of Brexit on both the UK economy and the aggregate economy of the remaining 27 EU members. As this column reports, a strong majority (86% of the panellists) agrees that the UK economy is likely to be at least several percentage points smaller in 2030 than it otherwise would have been. Views are more divided on the EU-27 economy: nearly a quarter of respondents agree that it will be at least several percentage points smaller in 2030 than it otherwise would have been; but more than a third are uncertain; while 41% do not expect the impact to be that strongly negative.

Mariacristina De Nardi, Giulio Fella, Gonzalo Paz-Pardo, 07 February 2021

The optimal size and structure of government benefit programmes crucially depend on households’ income risk and their ability to self-insure against it. This column demonstrates that in the UK, earning dynamics, such as income risk and shock persistence, differ substantially depending on age and position in the income distribution. Taking these dynamics into account when evaluating benefit policies is of crucial importance, as it dramatically changes the estimated welfare improvements. When the dynamics are incorporated, the 2016 reform of the UK’s benefit system is found to have been welfare-improving on average. 

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.

Alejandro Graziano, Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão, 26 January 2021

Following the Brexit referendum five years ago, firms in the UK and also those in the EU and other countries operated in an environment with increased uncertainty over future trade policies. This column presents evidence of the detrimental effects of this uncertainty on trade in the UK before any changes to trade policy had taken place. Studying the period after the Conservative Party won the general election in May 2015 until just after the Brexit referendum in June 2016, it finds that an increasing probability of Brexit significantly reduced UK export values and product entry, while increasing product exit.

Stephen Machin, Sandra McNally, Camille Terrier, Guglielmo Ventura, 23 December 2020

England introduced University Technical Colleges – hybrid education institutions which combine general and vocational education – in 2010. This column presents the results from the first evaluation of the causal effect of attending such a college on student academic and vocational achievement, and on eventual labour market outcomes. While college enrolment can have positive effects on the probability of studying a STEM subject at university, the age that a student enrolls plays a key part in determining their overall attainment.

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.

Maja Adena, Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, Hans-Joachim Voth, 19 November 2020

In conflicts, adversaries aim for victory by using both direct and indirect forces to break the enemy’s will to resist. During WWII, Allied forces used strategic bombing and radio propaganda to undermine German morale. This column compares German domestic resistance to the Nazi regime, based on treason trial records, with the monthly volume of bombing and the locations of BBC radio transmitters. Where radio reception was better and Allied air forces bombed more heavily, German domestic resistance was markedly more likely, despite the draconian punishments for even the mildest transgressions.

Alex Rees-Jones, John D'Attoma, Amedeo Piolatto, Luca Salvadori, 04 November 2020

While few groups have weathered the Covid-19 crisis unscathed, recent evidence suggests that the damage has been especially extreme among the economically vulnerable. This column evaluates changing attitudes towards welfare spending as a result of the pandemic. The findings suggest that people living in areas most severely hit by the crisis are increasingly supportive of long-term reforms to the welfare system. Despite having access to relatively widespread welfare spending, European citizens are dissatisfied with the safety net systems currently in place. 

Thiess Buettner, Boryana Madzharova, 27 October 2020

Facing the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments all over the world are considering providing a fiscal stimulus. A potentially powerful instrument to do so is a broad-based consumption tax such as VAT. This column argues that changes in VAT may have some effect in stimulating spending on certain consumer durable goods such as household appliances. However, these effects may be heterogenous across different product types and the timing and perceived credibility of the announcements are also important factors for policymakers to consider.

Alexander Chudik, Kamiar Mohaddes, M. Hashem Pesaran, Mehdi Raissi, Alessandro Rebucci, 19 October 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in its global reach and impact, posing formidable challenges to policymakers and to the empirical analysis of its direct and indirect effects within the interconnected global economy. This column uses a ‘threshold-augmented multi-country econometric model’ to help quantify the impact of the Covid-19 shock along several dimensions. The results of the analysis show that the global recession will be long lasting, with no country escaping its impact regardless of their mitigation strategy. These findings call for a coordinated multi-country policy response to the pandemic.

Brian Nolan, Juan C. Palomino, Philippe Van Kerm, Salvatore Morelli, 19 September 2020

Whether and how much intergenerational transfers contribute to wealth inequality is still subject to debate. This column analyses household survey data on inheritance and gifts inter vivos in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the US to relate current household wealth levels and inequality to the receipt of intergenerational wealth transfers. In these countries, large transfers increase overall wealth inequality. Strengthening taxation capacity and instating lifetime capital acquisitions tax for gifts and inheritances may help counter the dis-equalising effect of intergenerational transfers.

Arun Advani, Felix Koenig, Lorenzo Pessina, Andy Summers, 17 September 2020

Top incomes have grown rapidly in recent decades and this growth has sparked a debate about rising inequality in Western societies. This column combines data from UK tax records with new information on migrant status to show that that migrants are highly represented at the top of the UK’s income distribution. Indeed, migration can account for the majority of top-income growth in the past two decades and can help explain why the UK has experienced an outsized increase in top incomes.

Debopam Bhattacharya, Renata Rabovic, 15 September 2020

The balance between merit and diversity in university admissions is a controversial issue, but statistical analysis is challenging because applicant characteristics are only observed by admissions officers and post-entry test scores are only available for those who were admitted. This column uses a novel, outcome-based test of merit-based admissions at Cambridge University, where some applicants enter via a second-round clearing mechanism from a ‘pool’, to bypass the non-observability problems. The test reveals robust evidence of higher admissions standards for men in STEM and economics, and weak evidence of the same for private school applicants. The gender gap is non-evident in law and medicine.

Richard Button, Marek Rojicek, Matt Waldron, Danny Walker, 07 September 2020

The spread of Covid-19 and the measures taken to contain it have led to a sharp fall in economic activity, which has put pressure on many companies’ cash flows.  This column estimates a cash flow deficit summing to £135 billion for the 2020-21 financial year for mid-size and large UK companies. Supported by public policy, UK companies have already raised a large amount of external finance, providing them with liquidity to help bridge some of the disruption.  But additional liquidity will be required and equity finance will likely be important during the recovery phase.

Michèle Belot, Syngjoo Choi, Egon Tripodi, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Julian C. Jamison, Nicholas W. Papageorge, 24 July 2020

Almost all countries in the world have implemented drastic measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. This column documents the effects of the epidemic and containment measures using representative individual data on age and income from three Western and three Asian countries. Younger groups in all countries have been affected more, both economically and non-economically. Differences across income groups are less clear and less consistent across countries. The young are less compliant and supportive of the containment measures, no matter how hard they have been affected by them.

Richard V. Burkhauser, Nicolas Hérault, Stephen P. Jenkins, Roger Wilkins, 21 July 2020

The share of total income held by those at the very top of the income distribution has been much analysed, but despite a rising share of women in the top 1% of the income distribution, less is known about the gender divide at the top. This column analyses gender differences among the UK top 1% between 1999 and 2015. The rising share of women in the top 1% is largely accounted for by women having increased the time they spend in full-time education by more than men did.

Walker Hanlon, Casper Worm Hansen, Jake Kantor, 15 July 2020

Temperature can affect human health and mortality. Historical evidence on the changing relationship between temperature and mortality may be useful in today’s world as we consider adaptive strategies to face global warming. This column uses detailed weekly mortality data from London for 1866–1965 to examine how the temperature-mortality relationship changed as the city developed. In 1866–1914, high-temperature events increase mortality for several weeks, but much of the effect of high temperatures on mortality has disappeared after WWI. The change is linked to the significant reduction in infant digestive disease around 1900.

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