Noam Angrist, Simeon Djankov, Pinelopi Goldberg, Harry Patrinos, 09 April 2021

Human capital is a critical component of economic development. But the links between growth and human capital – when measured by years of schooling – are weak. This column introduces a better measurement, using a database that directly measures learning and represents 98% of the global population. The authors find that the link between economic development and human capital is strong when measured in this way. They also show that global progress in learning has been limited over the past two decades, even as enrolment in primary and secondary education has increased.

Hâle Utar, 28 March 2021

The Mexican Drug War, including the ostentatious killings and the targeting of civillians, has been amply covered in the media. What is less known are the economic impacts of the violence, particularly at the firm level. This column presents evidence from Mexican firms, focusing on the differing experiences of ‘blue-collar’ and ‘white-collar’ organisations. The results suggest that violence can cause a negative labour supply shock, particularly in sectors that more frequently employ lower-skilled female workers.

Avinash Persaud, 17 March 2021

For the countries on the frontline in the war against climate change, there is a nasty nexus between climate change and debt. The cost of environmental damage, the loss of revenues from a natural disaster, and the high price of building back better all contribute to higher debt. This column proposes three ways to break this climate–debt nexus: (1) redistribute special drawing rights using a new classification of vulnerability; (2) incorporate natural disaster clauses into multilateral development banks’ lending arrangements; and (3) use the unused special drawing rights of the world’s strongest countries to recapitalise regional development banks to finance resilience in the vulnerable countries without adding to their debt.

Xinshen Diao, Mia Ellis, Margaret McMillan, Dani Rodrik, 01 March 2021

Before Covid-19 struck, many economies in sub-Saharan Africa were expanding rapidly – faster than at any time since independence. Yet African growth accelerations were anomalous when viewed from the perspective of comparative development patterns; structural changes were accompanied by declining within-sector productivity growth in modern sectors. This column explores this anomaly in the context of African manufacturing using newly created firm-level panel data for Tanzania and Ethiopia. In both countries, there is a sharp dichotomy between larger firms that exhibit superior productivity performance but do not expand employment much, and small firms that absorb employment but do not experience any productivity growth. These patterns appear to be related to technological advances in global manufacturing which are making it more capital intensive.

Pierre Dubois, Yassine Lefouili, Stephane Straub, 30 January 2021

Patients in the developing world often face prices for essential medicines far in excess of international reference levels, even if those drugs have lost patent protection. This column presents evidence from seven low- and middle-income countries with diverse drug procurement systems to assess the effect of centralised procurement on drug prices. The results of the study highlight that centralised procurement of drugs by the public sector leads to lower prices, but that the induced price reduction is smaller when the supply side is more concentrated.

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.

Jie Bai, Maggie Chen, Jin Liu, Daniel Yi Xu, 15 December 2020

Global e-commerce platforms present new export opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries by significantly lowering the entry barriers of exporting. This column shows, however, that the lack of market selection can lead to severe congestion in consumers' search process and, when firms' intrinsic quality is not perfectly observed, hinder market allocation towards better firms. Policies aimed at alleviating information frictions and reducing the number of firms can help to improve allocative efficiency and raise consumer welfare.

Isabela Manelici, Smaranda Pantea, 08 November 2020

Industrial policies can be an effective tool for governments to shape the development of different sectors to achieve productivity growth. But there is little evidence of their effectiveness or efficiency. This column examines the impact of an income tax break for IT workers in Romania. The findings suggest that targeted policies of this kind can boost key sectors. This finding is encouraging in terms of the ability of governments to design and implement effective industrial policies. 


We invite submissions from junior faculty and PhD students for the Political Economy of International Organization seminar series. The seminar will bring together economists and political scientists to address political economy issues related to international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, European Union, and others. We also consider submissions on topics more broadly related to international organization, such as foreign aid, international agreements, and international law.
Submission of Papers

The seminar series is open to all who are interested and will feature papers selected based on their quality and fit. Both empirical and theoretical papers will be considered. Presenters should be junior faculty or PhD students, but we do not discount senior co-authors. Please submit full papers via our online submission form at The deadline for submission is December 15, 2020.

The format will be PEIO-style: short paper presentations (10 minutes), two discussion openers (2-3 minutes each), and 20 minutes for general discussion (where we expect participants to read papers before the session). The seminar series will run for 10 weeks, with two presentations each session. Participants will have the chance to talk to presenters before and after the sessions.  

Emmanuelle Auriol, Julie Lassébie, Amma Panin, Eva Raiber, Paul Seabright, 19 September 2020

The Pentecostal church is one of the fastest-growing segments of Christianity, including in sub-Saharan Africa. The church makes a strong and explicit link between ‘giving to God’ and future wellbeing; donations can be seen as a form of insurance for the future. This column tests how formal market-based insurance affects the demand for informal church-based insurance in Accra, Ghana. People enrolled in a formal insurance policy give less money to their church and to other charitable organisations.

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.

Leandro de la Escosura, Carlos Álvarez-Nogal, Carlos Santiago-Caballero, 07 May 2020

It is believed that living standards in world economies stayed roughly constant prior to 1800. This column presents data on Spanish population and economic development from 1277-1850 which challenges this view. Population and economic growth are found to evolve simultaneously, contradicting the Malthusian view. Spain was a frontier economy within Europe that, after a drop in living standards after the Black Death, grew steadily until the 1570s, when its path diverged from the rest of Europe. 

Antonio Accetturo, Michele Cascarano, Guido de Blasio, 15 April 2020

From the 16th to the early 19th century, coastal areas of Italy (especially in the south-west) were subject to attacks by pirates launched from the shores of northern Africa. To protect themselves, residents of coastal locations moved inland to mountainous and rugged areas. This column shows how relocation constrained local economic development for a long period after the piracy threat had subsided and may have had aggregate consequences on Italy’s post-WWII development.

Jeremie Gross, Catherine Guirkinger, Jean-Philippe Platteau, 16 April 2020

For many regions around the world, geographic isolation is the primary cause of seasonal fluctuations in the price and availability of foodgrain. To activate the local food market, dampen such fluctuations, and improve people’s nutritional status, Burkina Faso’s Food Security Granaries programme set up village-level cooperatives and put them in charge of buying grain from outside sources and selling it locally. This column assesses the effects of the intervention and finds that market activation considerably reduced nutritional stress, especially among young children. The nutritional improvement is driven by a change in the timing of food purchase and hence, of consumption.

António Henriques, Nuno Palma, 10 December 2019

The decline of countries such as Castile and Portugal, which first benefited from access to the New World, relative to their followers, especially England and the Netherlands, is often attributed to the quality of the Iberian countries’ institutions at the time Atlantic trade opened. This column questions this narrative by comparing Iberian and English institutional quality over time, considering the frequency and nature of parliamentary meetings, the frequency and intensity of extraordinary taxation and coin debasement, and real interest spreads for public debt. It finds no evidence that the political institutions of Iberia were worse until at least 1650.

Thomas Keywood, Jörg Baten, 07 December 2019

Due to their lower standards of living, Eastern and Central Eastern Europe are losing their young, well-educated and energetic population to the West. The scarcity of data that reach far enough back in time makes it challenging to explain the longstanding East–West differences. This column explores the relationship of economic development with human capital – specifically, elite numeracy – and violence. It concludes that the absence of violence played a significant role in economic development through elite numeracy formation.

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Tobias Ketterer, 18 November 2019

Institutions are an important ingredient for economic growth. Using data from European regions for the period 1999-2013, this column shows that government quality matters for regional growth, and that relative improvements in the quality of government are a powerful driver of development. One-size-fits-all policies for lagging regions are not the solution. Government quality improvements are essential for low-growth regions, and in low-income regions, basic endowment shortages are still the main barrier to development. 

Michèle Tertilt, 08 November 2019

Michèle Tertilt asks whether more control over finances in the hands of women leads to more economic prosperity and progress.

Kevin Bryan, 29 October 2019

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded jointly to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. This column outlines their impact on development economics research and practical action to reduce poverty. It also considers some of the critiques of randomised controlled trials as an approach to development.

Diane Coyle, 07 October 2019



CEPR Policy Research