Dirk Niepelt, 22 June 2020

Notoriously inconclusive policy recommendations and the failure to foresee the Great Recession have caused many commentators to voice doubts about the usefulness of macroeconomics. This column argues that macroeconomics can offer a coherent framework to understand and evaluate policy options, but macroeconomists need to explain the field’s subject matter and findings better to both policymakers and the general public. A new textbook aims at closing the gulf between macroeconomic research and widespread misconceptions about it by providing a concise and rigorous introduction to modern macroeconomic theory.

Claudia Biancotti, Alfonso Rosolia, Fabrizio Venditti, Giovanni Veronese, 12 April 2020

The COVID-19 lockdown will negatively impact businesses and households around the world not only through its direct effects on economic activity and employment, but also indirectly by the disrupting the flow of crucial information. This column suggests some channels through which national statistical institutes and other public agencies, private data brokers, and Big Tech companies can harness the full potential of their access to data.

Thushyanthan Baskaran, Zohal Hessami, 18 February 2020

The fact that women are underrepresented in politics is often viewed as an important social problem. But why should it be a problem? This column argues that when too few women hold political office, political decisions may not adequately reflect women’s needs and preferences. Using the example of the public provision of childcare in Germany, it shows that municipalities with a higher share of female councillors expand public childcare more quickly. The fact that the presence of women has substantive effects on policies should be taken into account in current debates around the introduction of gender quotas in politics.

Monica Andini, Emanuele Ciani, Guido de Blasio, Alessio D'Ignazio, 21 November 2018

The impact of a public policy partly depends on how effective it is in selecting its targets. Machine learning can help by exploiting increasingly available amounts of information. Using data from Italy, this column presents two examples of how to employ machine learning to target those groups that could plausibly gain more from the policy. It illustrates the benefits of machine-learning targeting when compared to the standard practice of employing coarse policy assignment rules based on a few arbitrarily chosen characteristics.

Narayana Kocherlakota, 18 June 2018

Modern macro models offer insights into the outcomes of adopting entire policy regimes, but in reality, policymakers are rarely required to make such broad-ranging policy decisions. This column suggests how theoretical and applied microeconomics can be used to develop a framework for modern macroeconomic policymaking, and demonstrates how game-theoretic principles could be used to make series of sequential policy decisions. While this approach requires large amounts of data, it would allow academic macroeconomists to refocus on important policy questions.

Heiner Schumacher, Iris Kesternich, Michael Kosfeld, Joachim Winter, 06 July 2016

Evidence shows that individuals often do not act in a completely selfish manner, but rather take into account the welfare of other parties when making decisions. But how decision-makers trade off costs and benefits when the costs are dispersed among many individuals is unclear. This column discusses new experimental evidence showing that a large fraction of individuals are ‘insensitive to group size’, attaching similar weights to small and large groups. These findings provide a new explanation for a number of empirical patterns, including political and medical decision-making, lobbying, tax evasion, and charity donations.

Keiichiro Kobayashi, 10 February 2013

Japan is under new leadership, bringing fresh attempts to tackle deflation. This column argues that the lessons we can learn are Going forward, a change of party politics with every change of government will likely become a recurring event in Japan. In order to restore people’s confidence in the fiscal management and social security system in the light of that prospect, institutional systems should be designed in a way to allow flexibility, premised on the fact that the government cannot make commitments into the remote future. Political leaders – whether they belong to the ruling or opposition parties – need to come up with new ideas toward achieving that end.

Ellen Meade, David Stasavage, 26 June 2008

Central banks are increasingly transparent but is the spotlight is stifling? Analysis of FOMC transcripts before and after Committee members knew that they would be published shows how transparency deadened the debate and reduced the number of challenges to Greenspan’s position.

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