Tommaso Porzio, Federico Rossi, 28 March 2022

Traditional theories explain structural transformation by the decline in the relative demand for agricultural labour over the last two centuries. This column focuses on the ‘human side’ and argues that the relative supply of labour is another important driver. Using data for 52 countries, it shows that an increase in schooling led to a sharp reduction in the agricultural labour supply by equipping younger cohorts with skills more valued outside of agriculture and making them be less willing to stay on the farm. Governments might consider educational policies to accelerate the process of structural transformation, and thus economic development.

Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, 24 January 2022

International travel and tourism collapsed during Covid-19. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti sets out the impact has this had on countries that depend most on tourism.

Read more about the research behind this and download the free DP:
Milesi-Ferretti, G. 2021. 'The Travel Shock'. CEPR

Jon Danielsson, Marcela Valenzuela, Ilknur Zer, 13 January 2022

The relationship between financial risk and economic growth is complex. This column finds that perceptions of high risk unambiguously harm growth, while perceived low risk has an initial positive impact, which eventually turns negative. Global risk has a stronger effect on growth than local risk, via its impact on capital flows, investment, and debt-issuer quality, challenging monetary policy independence.

Claudio Borio, Piti Disyatat, 10 November 2021

Monetary and fiscal policies, as deeply entwined functions of the state, face a looming dual long-term challenge. This column argues that they need to regain policy headroom to be able to effectively fulfil their macro-stabilisation role. And once these safety margins are restored, the policies need to remain firmly within a ‘corridor of stability’, in which neither can endanger the other or push it to the limit. In addition, navigating the path ahead will require a mix of ‘opportunistic normalisations’ and structural reforms to raise long-term growth. 

Marianne Bertrand, Chang-Tai Hsieh, Nick Tsivanidis, 20 October 2021

Changes in contract labour regulation were introduced in India in the late 1940s. The hope was that controlling whether firms could downsize would reduce mass job losses as large British companies left the country post-independence. This column explores the effect of the Industrial Disputes Act on firms of different sizes. The authors find that smaller firms did not see much change, but larger firms did employ fewer contract workers as a result. However, this effect was driven by firms exploiting a loophole, rather than the law itself.

Tsutomu Miyagawa, Takayuki Ishikawa, 27 August 2021

The Japanese economy has seen a decline in the contribution of capital accumulation to economic growth since 2000. This column uses over 30 years of national productivity data to explore this trend. It finds that the fall in tangible capital accumulation has largely been offset by investment into intangible capital. However, the growth in tangible and intangible capital accumulation has been imbalanced, calling for support of both types of asset accumulation. 

Seán Kenny, Jason Lennard, Kevin O'Rourke, 11 August 2021

Economic historians have not reached a consensus on whether Ireland deindustrialised in the 19th century, although nationalists have argued that the 1800 union with Great Britain exposed Irish industry to the full force of competition. This column constructs a new annual index of industrial production in Ireland between 1840 and 1913. Despite a shrinking industrial labour force, Irish industry expanded by 1.4% a year on average in this period due to the productivity growth of those that remained. However, Ireland’s performance was still dismal by international standards.

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. 

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