Brookings Papers on Economic Activity: Fall 2010

Brookings Institution Press
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Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA) provides academic and business economists, government officials, and members of the financial and business communities with timely research on current economic issues.

Contents:

• Editors' Summary

• The Increase in Income Cyclicality of High-Income Households and Its Relation to the Rise in Top Income Shares By Jonathan A. Parker and Annette Vissing-Jorgensen (Northwestern University)

• The State of the Social Safety Net in the Post-Welfare Reform Era By Marianne P. Bitler (University of California, Irvine) and Hilary W. Hoynes (University of California, Davis)

• The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Students, Teacheres, and Schools By Thomas S. Dee (University of Virginia) and Brian A. Jacob (University of Michigan)

• How Useful Are Estimated DSGE Model Forecasts for Central Bankers? By Rochelle M. Edge (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) and Refet S. Gürkaynak (Bilkent University)

• Regulating the Shadow Banking System By Gary Gorton and Andrew Metrick (Yale University)

• State Fiscal Policies and Transitory Income Fluctuations By James R. Hines, Jr. (University of Michigan)

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
May 1, 2011
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Pages
350
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ISBN
9780815721581
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
 As the United States emerges from the Great Recession, concern is rising nationally over the issues of income inequality, stagnation of workers' wages, and especially the struggles of lower-skilled workers at the -bottom end of the wage scale. While Washington deliberates legislation raising the minimum wage, a number of major American employers—for example, Aetna and Walmart—have begun to voluntarily raise the pay of their own lowest-paid employees.

In this collection of essays, economists from the Peterson Institute for International Economics analyze the potential benefits and costs of widespread wage increases, if adopted by a range of US private employers. They make this assessment for the workers, the companies, and for the US economy as a whole, including such an initiative's effects on national competitiveness.  These economists conclude that raising the pay of many of the lowest-paid US private-sector workers would not only reduce income inequality but also boost overall productivity growth, with likely minimal effect on employment in the current financial context.

"It is possible to profit from paying your employees well…and increasing lower-paid workers' wages is the way forward for the United States," argues Adam S. Posen in his lead essay (reprinted from theFinancial Times).  Justin Wolfers and Jan Zilinsky argue that higher wages can encourage low-paid workers to be more productive and loyal to their employers and coworkers, reducing costly job turnover and the need for supervision and training of new workers. Tomas Hellebrandt estimates that if all large private sector corporations in the United States outside of sectors that intensively use low-skilled labor increased wages of their low-paid workers to $16 per hour, the pay of 6.2 percent of the $110 million private-sector workers in the United States would increase on average by 38.6 percent. The direct cost to employers would be $51 billion, only around 0.3 percent of GDP. Jacob Kirkegaard and Tyler Moran explore the experience of employers in other advanced countries, with its implications for international competitiveness, and Michael Jarand assesses the impact of a wage increase on the near-term development of the US macroeconomy.

Data disclosure: The data underlying the figures in this analysis are available for download in links listed below.

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