Christian Bayer, Benjamin Born, Ralph Luetticke, 20 May 2021

Debt-financed fiscal expansions have been a critical feature in many countries’ policy response to Covid-19. This column revisits the role of public debt in stimulating economic recovery. The authors identify both short-run and long-run effects, highlighting that higher public debt has small effects on the capital stock but leads to a sizable decline of the liquidity premium, which increases the fiscal burden of debt. Further, the revenue-maximising level of public debt is positive and has increased to 60% of GDP post-2010.

Cormac Ó Gráda, Kevin O'Rourke, 11 May 2021

Depending on the period, Ireland’s economy has served as a model to be followed or a sobering lesson in failure. This column reviews the performance of the Irish economy from a long-run perspective and suggests that contrary to the common discourse, Ireland’s growth trajectory since independence has been far from exceptional. Rather, it should be seen as volatile. 

Wolf-Fabian Hungerland, Nikolaus Wolf, 02 May 2021

The history of globalisation is usually told in two parts, separated not only by two world wars but also by changes in technology, institutions, and economic logic. This column reconsiders that narrative. Using detailed new evidence on Germany’s foreign trading practices from 1800 to 1913 (the ‘first’ globalisation), it finds that most growth took place along the extensive margin, while 25–30% of trade was intra-industry. If the first globalisation saw substantial heterogeneity within countries and industries, it may be time to re-think the ‘classical’ versus ‘new’ trade paradigm. 

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.

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.

Nicolas Woloszko, 19 December 2020

A pre-requisite for good macroeconomic policymaking is timely information on the current state of the economy, particularly when economic activity is changing rapidly. Given that GDP figures are usually only available on a quarterly basis, the current crisis has prompted a search for alternative high‑frequency indicators of economic activity. This column presents evidence from a new tracker developed by OECD which uses Google Trends and machine learning to provide real-time estimates of GDP growth in countries all over the world.

João Tovar Jalles, Luiz de Mello, 22 October 2020

Widening income disparities and slow productivity growth in many countries have rekindled interest in the policies that can deliver strong and equitable growth in output and living standards. This column presents a chronology of inclusive growth episodes, defined as increases in GDP per capita without a concomitant deterioration in the distribution of household disposable income. These episodes are more likely to occur where human capital is high, tax-benefit systems are more redistributive, productivity grows more rapidly, and labour force participation is high. Trade openness and a range of institutional factors, including political system durability and electoral regimes, also matter.

Yuxian Chen, Yannis Ioannides, 15 September 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging at the beginning of the summer of 2020, countries that depend heavily on international tourism were confronted with the dilemma of whether or not to let travel restart. This column uses international data to explore the relationship between tourism specialisation and short-run economic growth. The results suggest that a 1% increase in tourism specialisation is associated with 0.01 percentage point increase in the growth rate of GDP per capita for OECD countries. This is in line with previous findings but is based on up-to-date panel data.

Peter Klenow, Huiyu Li, 18 August 2020

There is much concern that the Covid-19 crisis may be particularly tough for relatively young firms to survive. Given that much innovation is attributed to young firms, this could then harm overall productivity. This column uses the dynamics of various firms’ market shares in order to infer their growth contributions. Compared to studies focusing on patents and R&D spending, the authors find a much bigger role for new and young firms in terms of accounting for productivity growth. Protecting young firms is therefore essential to mitigating the productivity damage of Covid-19.

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.

Viral Acharya, Raghuram Rajan, Jack Shim, 16 June 2020

While many theories of international borrowing emphasize its advantages, it has proven difficult to empirically establish a correlation between a developing country’s use of foreign financing and good outcomes such as stronger growth. This column proposes a theoretical framework that reconciles the above puzzle. It establishes that a developing country’s propensity to save is essential in determining whether the government’s ability to borrow in international markets is welfare improving for its citizens or not. Hence, debt is not always 'odious' and alternative policies such as debt ceilings may prove more useful, especially in the midst of the current pandemic.

Chang Ma, John Rogers, Sili Zhou, 13 May 2020

Forecasting the progress and impact of COVID-19 is central to the planning of policymakers around the world. This column provides a historical perspective by examining the immediate and bounce-back effects from six post-war disease shocks. GDP growth contractions are immediate and sizeable, but vary across countries. Despite an immediate ‘bounce back’, GDP tends to remain below its pre-shock level for several years. The negative effect on GDP is felt less in countries with larger first-year responses in government spending, especially on health care, and the indirect effects on GDP growth from affected trading partners are also important.

Jamus Lim, 11 May 2020

Large fiscal expenditures, as well as more loans by households and firms, will lead to sharp increases in public and private debt in the near future. The resulting debt burdens may impact both post-lockdown economic recovery and medium-run growth prospects. This column presents evidence on the effects of the total debt burden on output dynamics. The results suggest increases in total debt to GDP have significant negative effects on growth. Helping economies recover from the dramatic COVID-19 shock will require tackling both public and private borrowing. 

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. 

Ewout Frankema, Marlous van Waijenburg, 02 May 2020

Despite a clear positive relationship between education and income at the micro-level, raising educational attainment rates in the developing world have so far failed to lead to substantial and sustained economic growth. This column collects data on skill premia for 50 African and Asian countries for 1870-2010 and presents evidence of a dramatic fall in skill premia from initially very high levels for both Asia and Africa over the course of the 20th century. This convergence of skill premia to Western levels is shown to be negatively related to the relative supply of educated workers in those economies.

Petr Sedláček, Vincent Sterk, 25 April 2020

Startups are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. Introducing a ‘startup calculator’ that allows anyone to compute the aggregate employment losses under various economic scenarios, this column explores the effects of a decline in startup activity on aggregate employment. Job losses may be large and may last well beyond the pandemic itself.

Ana Venâncio, Victor Barros, Clara Raposo, 29 March 2020

Corporate tax is often seen as a constraint to entrepreneurial activity. This column uses evidence from a tax reform in Portugal to study the relationship between corporate taxes and the behaviour of entrepreneurs. Lower corporate taxes improve both the quantity and quality of entrepreneurial activity, inducing larger and more productive firms to the market, which are more likely to survive in the long term. The study suggests that, on average, the entrepreneurs who were able to take advantage of the reform are mostly male, relatively older, and well-educated individuals.

Alexander Dietrich, Keith Kuester, Gernot Müller, Raphael Schoenle, 24 March 2020

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy are still largely unknown. The short-term economic impact will depend importantly on people’s expectations of the overall effect, and the amount of uncertainty thereof. This column uses a survey of US households to show that the expected economic effect is negative, large, and highly uncertain. An asset-pricing equation is used to quantify the implication of these expectations for the natural rate of interest. The natural rate declines by several percentage points, suggesting a role for monetary accommodation to (partially) offset the shock.

Aida Caldera, Alessandro Maravalle, Lukasz Rawdanowicz, Ana Sanchez Chico, 23 March 2020

Global economic growth is expected to remain weak and significant downside risks persist. As room for conventional monetary policy is limited or exhausted, policymakers will need to rely increasingly on fiscal policy to stabilise the economy during the next economic downturn. This column presents new OECD estimates which suggest that automatic stabilisers on average offset 60% of a specific shock to market income across 23 OECD economies. However, there are marked differences across OECD countries leaving scope to make automatic stabilisers more effective.

Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, 12 December 2019

Sebnem Kalemli-Özcan discusses foreign direct investment and how local conditions can limit a country's capacity to take advantage of spillovers from the investment

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