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The effect of age on willingness to take risks

Many developed countries have ageing populations, with potentially major economic, political, and social consequences in the near future. Using Dutch and German panel data to control for cohort and period effects, this column investigates the relationship between age and risk attitudes. The results suggest that willingness to take risks declines with age, implying that societies may become more risk-averse as their population ages.

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Supermarket transparency lowers prices

The ability to compare prices openly and easily is widely thought to foster competitiveness, but mandatory disclosure of pricing information can also facilitate collusion between sellers. This column uses evidence from before and after the introduction of price disclosure regulation in the Israeli supermarket industry to evaluate how price transparency affected food prices. Mandatory disclosure decreased the dispersion and, to a lesser extent, th

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Microeconomic shocks drive aggregate fluctuations in Europe

The economics profession has generally explained large movements in macroeconomic aggregates such as GDP or employment by shocks to other aggregates. This is in part due to the difficulty of translating micro or localised shocks into macro-relevant ‘news‘. This column argues that idiosyncratic shocks at the biggest European firms are behind 40% percent of aggregate GDP fluctuations in Europe. These results have implications for the ef

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Why societies cooperate

Three attributes are often suggested to generate cooperative behaviour a good heart, good norms, and intelligence. This column reports the results of a laboratory experiment in which groups of players benefited from learning to cooperate. It finds overwhelming support for the idea that intelligence is the primary condition for a socially cohesive, cooperative society. Warm feelings towards others and good norms have only a small and transitory e

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Finance and investment: Europe‘s lost decade

This column draws on a new book presenting the results of a two-year research programme that brought together leading economists from around the world to examine whether finance and public policy contributed to the deep and prolonged decline in European investment after the financial crisis. The findings point consistently to the importance of debt overhang as a contributory factor and the role of both tax and regulatory policy in exacerbating th

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Reconsidering the ‘China shock‘ in trade

International trade has become a focus of political debates in the US and around the world, but while previous studies focus on the job-reducing effect of the surging imports from China or other low-wage countries on the US employment, the job-creating effect of exports has receive much less attention. This column employs two approaches an instrumental variable regression analysis and a global input-output approach to argue that the negative ef

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How the barcode changed retailing

ICT fuelled rapid growth in US retail during the 1990s and 2000s. This column maps the adoption of universal product codes and scanners to show that the barcode was one of the main drivers of this growth. Companies adopting barcodes employed 10% more employees, delivered a wider range of products, and were more likely to procure from abroad.

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How to reconcile risk sharing and market discipline in the euro area

The euro area continues to suffer from critical weaknesses that are the result of a poorly designed fiscal and financial architecture, but its members are divided on how to address the problems. This column proposes six reforms which, if delivered as a package, would improve the euro area‘s financial stability, political cohesion, and potential for delivering prosperity to its citizens, all while addressing the priorities and concerns of pa

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The price of cyber (in)security

Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent and increasingly costly. This column discusses some of the challenges involved in measuring the economic damage caused by these attacks, including a lack of agreement on how to assess damage, an asymmetrical distribution where a few large-scale incidents account for most costs, and externality effects. A measurement framework, estimation strategy, and reliable data will all be needed for successful policy

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Measuring the local economy with Yelp data

Economic and policy research can often suffer from a scarcity of up-to-date data sources. This column explores the potential for digital data to supplement official government statistics by providing more up-to-date snapshots of the economy. A comparison of data from Yelp with US County Business Patterns data reveals that the Yelp data provide a good indication of underlying economic trends. But although digital data from online platforms offer f

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Smoking bans: Good for us, good for our kids

Many regions in the US have enacted 100% smoke-free laws in public places to reduce harmful second-hand smoke exposure, but if these laws simply displace smoking to the home, the children of smokers may suffer. The column uses data on infant and child health since the first ban in 1990 to show that children are healthier in many dimensions when there is a 100% smoke-free law. Partial smoking bans have a much smaller impact.

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Desensitisation to crime in Latin America

Governments in Latin America seemingly go unpunished at election times for high crime rates. This column examines whether the region‘s high tolerance for crime is the result of ‘desensitisation‘, with people reacting less to crime the more they are exposed to it. It finds that victims of crime become desensitised compared with non-victims, helping to explain tolerance to crime and a weak relationship between crime and happiness

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The effort students put into standardised tests varies widely by country

The Programme for International Student Assessment is a global standardised test of students‘ mathematics, reading, and science skills. This column describes how the results of various studies using different approaches all find evidence that many students who take the PISA do not try as hard as they can, and that the level of effort varies widely across countries. The findings illustrate that a combination of ability and motivation may be

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Tight monetary policy is not the answer to weak productivity growth

The widespread and persistent productivity slowdown witnessed since the Global Crisis had already begun in advanced and low-income countries prior to the crisis. This column argues that the crisis amplified the slowdown by creating ‘productivity hysteresis‘, and that monetary policy playedan ambiguous role. Policymakers must now address the legacies of the crisis through innovation, education policies, and structural reforms.

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