Economics

195 Results

 

Banks as Patient Fixed-Income Investors

What is the business of banking? Do banks primarily create value on the liability side of the balance sheet as suggested in theories of banking emphasizing liquidity creation? Does the essence of banking reside on the asset side, as in theories emphasizing banks' ability to monitor borrowers? Or does the special nature of banks derive from some synergy between their assets and liabilities? This paper argues that the specialness of traditional banks comes from combining stable money creation on the liability side with assets that have relatively safe long-run cash flows but possibly volatile market values and limited liquidity. To make this business model work, banks rely on deposit insurance, and bear the associated costs of capital regulation. Some preliminary evidence supports the authors' argument. For traditional banks there is a critical synergy between the asset and liability sides of the balance sheet. Read More

Leveraging Market Power Through Tying and Bundling: Does Google Behave Anti-Competitively?

This paper presents a series of incidents in which Google used tying and bundling to expand its dominance in a number of online markets and into additional markets. The author assesses whether these incidents raise concerns under antitrust law, and concludes that they do. Based on case law of technology companies that have engaged in tying and/or bundling and subsequently been subject to antitrust scrutiny, most notably Microsoft, it appears that Google's tying and bundling practices could face strong criticism for foreclosing competition. Such scrutiny is particularly important in light of Google's dominance in a number of online markets. The author also examines both current ties as well as ties Google used historically. The author concludes that Google's use of tying portends a future of reduced choice, slower innovation, lower quality, and higher prices. Read More

Firms and the Economics of Skilled Immigration

Firms play a central role in the immigration of skilled workers to the United States. In this paper the authors review the progress that has been made so far on understanding the impacts of high skilled immigration from the perspective of the firm. They discuss why an understanding of the economics of the firm is important, and emphasize the important degree to which firms internalize substitutions and complementarities over different worker groups and occupations. They then review recent academic work about firms and skilled immigration, and describe important areas for future research from both microeconomic and macroeconomic perspectives, respectively. Overall, the authors make clear that firms play an essential and active role in the skilled immigration process. In fact, the structure of the most important skilled immigration program allows firms to first choose the worker that they want to hire before the immigration to the United States occurs. The same importance is true for universities and students, who often become the workers later hired by firms (e.g., Stephan and Levin 2001, Stephan 2010). Given this policy framework, it is particularly valuable to understand exactly how these institutions choose to be a part of the immigration process, the role of the immigrants in their sponsoring institutions, and how these initial conditions persist for future assimilation of the immigrant. Read More

Profits and Economic Development

"Without development there is no profit, without profit no development," wrote economist and political scientist Joseph Schumpeter in his landmark book The Theory of Economic Development. An open question, however, has been whether excess profits—known as rents—are good for development. Economic theory thus far supports both sides of the argument, yielding conflicting advice for competition policy and anticorruption efforts. This paper examines the question by analyzing a comprehensive industry—level dataset of manufacturing sectors—and by applying methods of the competition-and-growth scholarship of economist Philippe Aghion and colleagues. This approach allows the analysis of industry-level profitability (as opposed to individual firms) and the overall growth of the economy. Evidence suggests that rents, as measured by a high-markup that is also an indication of low competition, seem to slow growth in productivity or output. The effect is strongest in poor countries. Higher rents are associated with a slower removal of tariffs, implying that firms rent-seek to prevent competition and maintain their high margins. This investment in rent-seeking may be in lieu of investment in innovation or new productive assets, which slows the overall growth of the sector. Furthermore, in industries in which high profits should be essential in generating growth, those sectors that would otherwise need external finance but in a country with weak financial markets, the negative impact of rents on growth is especially strong. Findings also show that countries with more rents in the manufacturing sector grow slower even when other controls are introduced. Read More

Revisiting the Classical View of Benefit-Based Taxation

President Barack Obama explains his support for progressive taxes as based on the belief that "those who've benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more." Called the classical version of benefit-based taxation, this reasoning has been used by policymakers and scholars for centuries, but it has been assigned at best a subsidiary role in modern research on optimal tax policy. In this paper, the author revisits that view and shows how it might be incorporated into modern theory. It turns out that this classical version of benefit-based taxation fits seamlessly into the modern (Mirrleesian) approach, with results for optimal policy that depend on potentially estimable statistics. Optimal policy according to this view can take a wide variety of forms, including those that match existing policy well. More generally, to the extent that a mixture of this classical benefit-based reasoning and the more conventional welfarist (e.g., utilitarian) reasoning is a good approximation of prevailing objectives for tax policy, the model may offer a useful approach to positive optimal tax theory. Read More

Corporate Financial Policies in Misvalued Credit Markets

The potential for overvaluation to impact firm decision-making is a potent idea with a long history in economic scholarship from foundational works to modern day texts. However, virtually all work on this idea has considered the potential for equity overvaluation to have an impact. The impact of bond market overvaluation on firm policies has thus far received little attention. This limited focus on potential debt market overvaluation is surprising given its size and importance to the economy: the US corporate bond market comprised $7.7 trillion in assets in 2011. The authors begin to fill the gap in scholarship by introducing the idea that mistakes made by the rating agencies should be correlated with bond pricing mistakes. They then examine the correlation in bond rating mistakes with the issuance decisions of firms as well as their cash holding, investment, and acquisition decisions. Findings include evidence that firms take advantage of inaccuracies by issuing more debt and increasing leverage. The result goes beyond a wealth transfer and has real investment implications: approximately 75 percent of the debt issuance funds increased capital expenditures and cash acquisitions. Read More

Has the Post-Capitalist Economy Finally Arrived?

Summing Up Capitalism is far from dead--but how it works is changing for good, say James Heskett's readers this month. What will it require from us? Closed for comment; 23 Comments posted.

China’s Economic System has Difficult Road Overcoming its Political System

It's fashionable to be bullish on China. But the new book "Can China Lead?" urges a more cautious view on the prospects of the country, where government bureaucracy stifles innovation. Open for comment; 0 Comments posted.

The Use of Broker Votes to Reward Brokerage Firms’ and Their Analysts’ Research Activities

Broker votes are one of the most pervasive yet least understood reporting practices on Wall Street. The votes are essentially ratings of the value of brokers' investment research services. These ratings are produced by institutional investors (the "buy side") and solicited by broker dealers (the "sell side"). Little research to date, however, has examined the determinants of broker votes, their consequences, and their economic function. In this paper the authors use data gathered from a mid-sized investment bank for the years 2004 to 2007 in order to study how broker votes are related to institutional investors' commission payments and analysts' client services and compensation. Results overall suggest that broker votes help to facilitate implicit contractual relationships between sell-side brokers, their affiliated analysts, and their buy-side clients. Broker votes are neither mere popularity contests nor a simple reflection of trading in analysts' covered stocks. Instead, they appear to be a key component of the investment research industry's contracting technology, acting as the nexus for a set of relationships between sell-side brokers, their affiliated analysts, and their buy-side clients. The findings thus deepen our understanding of how information is exchanged on Wall Street and help to explain why the practice of collecting and aggregating client votes—a costly internal reporting procedure—has stood the test of time and has been replicated across countless sell-side research departments. Read More

Racist Umpires and Monetary Ministers

Are baseball umpires racist? Are ministers motivated by money? Christopher Parsons teases important economic lessons from unlikely sources. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

Price Coherence and Adverse Intermediation

In modern markets, buyers can often buy the same good or service directly from a seller, and through one or more intermediaries, all at the same exact price. Buyers respond by choosing whichever intermediary offers the greatest benefit - perhaps a rebate, some kind of "points," or superior service. Importantly, buyers ignore the fees that intermediaries charge to sellers. The resulting outcomes can be distortionary and welfare-reducing. In particular, as intermediaries compete to attract buyers, they can set benefit levels so high that no net value is created and, sometimes, that buyers and seller would be jointly better off without intermediaries. The study examines six markets in which intermediaries are prominent: travel booking networks, credit and debit cards, insurance brokers and financial advisors, malls and marketplaces (such as Amazon Marketplace), cashback and rebate services, and search engine advertising. In each instance, a law, norm, intermediary policy, or similar rigidity prevents sellers from passing an intermediary's fees to the specific buyers who choose to use that intermediary. Read More

Excerpt: ’Fortune Tellers’

An excerpt from Walter A. Friedman's book, Fortune Tellers: The Story of America's Economic Forecasters. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Economic Transition and Private-Sector Labor Demand: Evidence from Urban China

One of the key economic and historic events of the late twentieth century was the transition of centrally planned socialist economies to market economies, including the movement of labor from state employment to private employment. The authors examine two questions: 1) What are effective policies for gradually transitioning labor into the private sector? 2) What is the adaptability of labor demand in the new private sector during economic transition? Data from urban China and show that delinking housing benefits from state-sector employment accounts for more than a quarter of the overall increase in labor supply to the private sector during 1986-2005. Furthermore, increasing the private-sector labor supply by 10 percent reduces wages by 1.8 to 3.2 percent. These results have several implications: First, employer-provided housing benefits contribute to reduced labor mobility across sectors, a phenomenon called "job-lock" (similar patterns have been documented for employer-provided health benefits in the United States). Second and more importantly, the private sector, even in its infancy, can absorb a significant amount of labor without large wage declines. However, the projected magnitudes of labor movement into the Chinese private sector are so large that they still imply drastic private-sector wage reductions, if capital and technology movements remain at the same rate as in these data. Thus, to minimize wage reductions, Chinese policy makers may want to consider policies that increase the availability of other factors of production into the private sector, such as greater capital availability or adoption of newer technologies, to raise labor productivity. Read More

The Entrepreneurs Who Invented Economic Forecasting

The new book Fortune Tellers investigates the history of economic forecasting and its roots in the turbulent nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Read an interview with author Walter A. Friedman and an excerpt. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Do Productivity Increases Contribute to Social Inequality?

Summing Up: Jim Heskett's readers are divided about whether corporate productivity increases make social inequality worse. Closed for comment; 23 Comments posted.

Zooming In: A Practical Manual for Identifying Geographic Clusters

The concept of clusters-high concentrations of economic activity in a specific geographic unit-is the foundation for a vast amount of research in economics, management, urban planning, sociology, and public policy. Despite notable exceptions, little research has looked carefully at the key issue of cluster identification. In this paper the authors detail the reasons, procedures, data, and results of their effort to identify geographic clusters. They want to increase awareness of the complexities behind cluster identification, and to provide a concrete method that can help researchers define clusters more accurately. In particular, the authors address three related questions in cluster identification: (1) What economic activity should be measured to determine clustering? (2) What is the appropriate geographic unit over which economic activity should be measured? (3) What levels of economic concentration are high enough for the geographic unit to be labeled a cluster? They answer these questions with a combination of literature review, theoretical discussion, and illustrations with various algorithms. While they use a specific empirical context-the global semiconductor industry-for illustrative purposes, the insights and methodologies are general enough for other contexts. The organic cluster identification methodology they propose is especially useful when researchers work in global settings, where data available at different geographic units complicates cross-country comparison. Read More

Heterogeneous Technology Diffusion and Ricardian Trade Patterns

The principle of Ricardian technology differences as a source of trade is well established in the theory of international economics. This theory argues that countries can focus on producing products in which they have comparative productivity advantages; subsequent exchanges afford higher standards of living in all countries than are possible without trade. While a key theory, economists have struggled to quantify the empirical importance of comparative technology advantages and their link to trade. This is especially difficult given the high degree to which technology states of countries and industries can be correlated with other traits about countries that could also promote trade. This study contributes to scholarship on Ricardian advantages through the development of a substantially larger dataset than previously utilized and the study of changes in technology/trade over time. Even more important, the study provides a tool for isolating relative technology growth in exporting countries across industries. The foundation for this identification is the modeling of Ricardian advantages through differences across countries and their industries in terms of their access to the U.S. technology frontier. The differences arise due to historical migration patterns (e.g., Chinese migration to San Francisco versus Hispanic migration to Miami). The study analyzes how technologies flow differentially to countries and industries based upon the historical settlement patterns of migrants from countries and the spatial development of new technologies in the United States (i.e., which technologies flourished in San Francisco versus Miami). The study finds that these differential technology flows are powerful enough to influence world trade patterns, and in the process, they provide new identification to an age-old theory. Read More

Monetary Policy Drivers of Bond and Equity Risks

Given the importance of nominal bonds in investment portfolios, and in the design and execution of fiscal and monetary policy, financial economists and macroeconomists need to understand the determinants of nominal bond risks. This is particularly challenging because the risk characteristics of nominal bonds are not stable over time. In this paper the authors ask how monetary policy has contributed to these changes in bond risks. They propose a model that integrates the building blocks of a New Keynesian model into an asset pricing framework in which risk and consequently risk premia can vary in response to macroeconomic conditions. The model is calibrated to US data between 1960 and 2011, a period in which macroeconomic conditions, monetary policy, and bond risks have experienced significant changes. Findings show that two elements of monetary policy have been especially important drivers of bond risks during the last half century. First, a strong reaction of monetary policy to inflation shocks increases both the beta of nominal bonds and the volatility of nominal bond returns. Positive inflation shocks depress bond prices, while the increase in the Fed funds rate depresses output and stock prices. Second, an accommodating monetary policy that smooths nominal interest rates over time implies that positive shocks to long-term target inflation cause real interest rates to fall, driving up output and equity prices, and nominal long-term interest rates to increase, decreasing bond prices. The paper shows empirical evidence that the Fed monetary policy followed an anti-inflationary stance after 1979, but it has moved to a more accommodating, nominal interest rate smoothing policy since the mid 1990's. Consistent with the predictions of the model, the first period corresponds to a period of average positive Treasury-bond beta and stock-bond correlation, and the second period to a period of average negative bond beta and stock-bond correlation. Overall, results imply that it is particularly important to take account of changing risk premia. Read More

Reserve Bank Governor Discusses India’s Financial Opportunities

A month after becoming the new governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan came to HBS to deliver the 2013 Leatherbee Lecture, "India: The Opportunities and Challenges Ahead." Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

Lehman Brothers Plus Five: Have We Learned from Our Mistakes?

Is the US financial system in better shape today than it was five years ago? Finance professors Victoria Ivashina, David Scharfstein, and Arthur Segel see real progress—but also missed opportunities and more challenges. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

The Curse of Double-Digit Growth

Liberia wants fast growth in order to solidify its social and political advances. Problem is, says Eric D. Werker, countries growing that quickly "are not unequivocally a club that one should strive to join." Closed for comment; 1 Comment posted.

X-CAPM: An Extrapolative Capital Asset Pricing Model

Many investors assume that stock prices will continue rising after they have previously risen, and will continue falling after they have previous fallen. This evidence, however, does not mesh with the predictions of many of the models used to account for other facts about aggregate stock market prices. Indeed, in most traditional models, expected returns are low when stock prices are high: in these models, stock prices are high when investors are less risk averse or perceive less risk. In this paper, the authors present a new model of aggregate stock market prices which attempts to both incorporate expectations held by a significant subset of investors, and address the evidence that other models have sought to explain. The authors' model captures many features of actual returns and prices. Importantly, however, it is also consistent with survey evidence on investor expectations. This suggests that the survey evidence is consistent with the facts about prices and returns and may be the key to understanding them. Read More

Learning from Double-Digit Growth Experiences

Double-digit growth in real GDP is defined as a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent or more over a period of eight years or longer. This paper was written as a policy memorandum for the Government of Liberia, which seeks rapid growth in order to reach middle-income status by 2030. For Liberia, current IMF forecasts predict growth in real GDP on the order of 6 to 7 percent per year. The comparative analysis of this paper asks: In what ways do countries growing real GDP at double-digit rates differ from countries growing real GDP at rates of 6-7 percent? Overall, the findings suggest that Liberia is reasonably well positioned to become another country with double-digit growth. Yet as the analysis shows, countries that have attained double-digit growth are not unequivocally a group that one should strive to join. The ultra-rapid growers whose growth has been driven by resources, aid, or remittances have not generally conducted the sorts of reforms to the legal, regulatory, and governance environment that could have generated high growth without such unearned income. They have also not generally invested their rents well in infrastructure or human capital. Moreover, post-conflict double-digit growers have found it difficult to reform or invest well. Read More

Marketplace or Reseller?

Intermediaries can often choose to operate as a marketplace, as a reseller, or as a hybrid having some products offered under each of the two different modes. For example, Alibaba.com, eBay.com, Premium Outlets, and Simon Malls act as marketplaces, in which suppliers sell directly to buyers via a platform. In contrast, retailers like 7-Eleven, Eastbay.com, Lowes, and Zappos.com resell the products they purchase from suppliers to buyers. A hybrid mode is also possible: For example, the largest electronics retailer in the United States, Best Buy, has taken a step towards the marketplace mode by allowing Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft to launch their own ministores within Best Buy stores. What economic tradeoffs drive an intermediary to adopt one mode over the other, or both? In this paper, the authors provide a new style of modeling intermediaries' strategic positioning decisions and a theory of which products an intermediary should offer in each mode. They also present a guide to how intermediaries should optimally position themselves between the two different modes. Managerial implications not only apply to an intermediary choosing between positioning itself as a pure reseller or a pure marketplace, but to hybrid modes in which the intermediary needs to determine how many products (and in the case of diverse products, which products) to offer in each mode. Read More

Are First-Time Buyers Left Out of Real Estate’s Rebound?

Real estate is again on the move in the United States. Nicolas P. Retsinas examines the impact on home buyers, renters, and policymakers. Closed for comment; 2 Comments posted.

Managers and Market Capitalism

In whose interests should managers act, particularly when structuring market regulations in highly technical or specialized matters that are largely outside public purview? This paper raises questions about the role of managers in sustaining the conditions for market capitalism to achieve its normative objectives. Rebecca Henderson and Karthik Ramanna begin with a discussion of the normative arguments for fully competitive markets as a resource allocation mechanism in complex societies. They suggest that Milton Friedman's assertion that the business of business is to increase its profits was in fact a moral assertion rooted in this normative framework. Next, they discuss the conditions for the existence of competitive markets and offer a brief overview of the institutions that provide them, noting that a combination of for-profit, pure public, and public-private institutions are needed to sustain capitalism. This perspective has two implications for managers. First, in many cases the opportunity to provide market completing institutions is a significant profit opportunity. Second, in those cases in which the provision of an institution is a scarcely attended political process or a public good that cannot be easily realized by managers, managers may have a duty to mitigate this market incompleteness even if it is not immediately profit maximizing to do so. Ultimately, managers' actions are likely to shape the moral and political legitimacy of market capitalism. Read More

How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments

The United States has witnessed a large increase in income concentration over the past several decades. While standard theory predicts that support for redistribution should increase with income inequality, there has been little evidence of greater demand for redistribution despite historic increases in income concentration. A possible explanation is that people are unaware of the increase in inequality, and greater information would substantially move redistributive preferences. The authors examine the determinants of redistributive preferences through randomized online survey experiments with Amazon Mechanical Turk, a rapidly growing new laboratory to carry out social experiments. The results show that information changes people's beliefs about the current level of inequality and leads them to become more favorable to redistributive policies like the estate tax. Read More

Carry Trade and Exchange-Rate Regimes

In emerging countries, carry-trade activity and foreign participation in local-currency bond markets have increased dramatically over the past decade. This study revisits the issue of choosing an exchange-rate regime under the assumption that emerging markets can borrow internationally in local currency. This hypothesis reflects a new trend in international capital flows: carry trade and relevant foreign participation in local-currency bond markets. Results show that, by means of international borrowing in domestic currency, emerging countries can partially offset foreign shocks. The authors argue that as emerging nations develop their local currency markets, a "pseudo-flexible regime," whereby a country accumulates reserves in conjunction with debt, is the best policy alternative under real external shocks. Read More

No Taxation without Information: Deterrence and Self-Enforcement in the Value Added Tax

This research investigates the effectiveness of the Value Added Tax in facilitating tax enforcement and sheds light on the role of information and third-party reporting for taxation. Drawing on results from two field experiments with over 400,000 Chilean firms, it provides evidence for the self-enforcing power of the paper trail in the VAT and for spillovers in tax enforcement through firms' trading networks more generally. The findings also show that while the VAT paper trail seems to be highly effective in Chile overall, the mere existence of a VAT system, in the absence of credible deterrence, does not lead to self-enforcement. Results have implications for public finance in developing countries and for tax policy in general. Read More

In Strange Company: The Puzzle of Private Investment in State-Controlled Firms

Why do "mixed corporations" exist? In which conditions could they become efficient organizational forms? In this paper, the authors argue that the effectiveness of mixed enterprise depends on a hybrid governance structure combining elements of private ownership with public checks-and- balances against uncertain governmental interference. This is a delicate equilibrium to obtain and one not without challenges. Exploring the promise and perils of this approach by looking at the recent experience of a sample of national oil companies (NOCs)-Brazil's Petrobras, Norway's Statoil, and Mexico's Pemex-the authors suggest that from the perspective of a social planner, the coexistence of minority private investors with state actors can generate improvements in operational and financial performance. From the perspective of private shareholders, there are risks that can be outweighed by some of the advantages of state-owned enterprises. Three different factors explain private investor interest. These are 1) the existence of countervailing privileges from partnering with the government, 2) the resort to improved corporate governance and legal constraints that limit the opportunity for political abuse, and 3) ex ante price discounting. Read More

Developing the Guts of a GUT (Grand Unified Theory): Elite Commitment and Inclusive Growth

Why do some countries successfully initiate episodes of rapid growth while others suffer extended stagnation? Furthermore, why are some countries able to sustain growth episodes over many decades of rapid or steady growth, while other growth episodes end in reversion to stagnation or collapse? This paper represents an initial step in a research agenda aiming to build a unified theory of growth that considers the complex dynamics and varied roles of elites. The analytical model suggested here is capable of generating both transitory and sustained episodes of accelerated growth. As Pritchett and Werker argue, progress on a unified theory of growth would explain, better than current long-run growth theories, the onset of growth episodes. It would also examine how the dynamics of growth interact with existing political and institutional configurations to produce feedback effects on policy and institutions such that some growth episodes end in bust or stagnation while others are continued. Read More

Expectations of Returns and Expected Returns

Much of modern asset pricing seeks to explain changes in stock market valuations using theories of investors' time-varying required returns. Although researchers have achieved considerable progress in developing proxies for expected returns, an important but often overlooked test of these theories is whether investors' expectations line up with these proxies. This paper shows that they do not. Read More

Is ‘Conscious Capitalism’ an Antidote to Income Inequality?

Summing-Up If capitalism creates unacceptable income inequality, what can be done about it? asks Jim Heskett. Whole Foods Market offers one possible solution, and now Jim's readers offer their own. Closed for comment; 46 Comments posted.

Dollar Funding and the Lending Behavior of Global Banks

A striking fact about international financial markets is the large share of dollar-denominated intermediation done by non-US banks. The large footprint of global banks in dollar funding and lending markets raises several important questions. This paper takes the presence of global banks in dollar loan markets as a given, and explores the consequences of this arrangement for cyclical variation in credit supply across countries. In particular, the authors show how shocks to the ability of a foreign bank to raise dollar funding translate into changes in its lending behavior, both in the US and in its home market. Overall, the authors identify a channel through which shocks outside the US can affect the ability of American firms to borrow. Although dollar lending by foreign banks increases the supply of credit to US firms during normal times, it may also prove to be a more fragile source of funding that transmits overseas shocks to the US economy. Read More

Boardroom Centrality and Firm Performance

Economists and sociologists have long studied the influence of social networks on labor markets, political outcomes, and information diffusion. These networks serve as a conduit for interpersonal and inter-organizational support, influence, and information flow. This paper studies the boardroom network formed by shared directorates and examines the implications of having well-connected boards, finding that firms with the best-connected boards on average earn substantially higher future excess returns and other advantages. Read More

New Winners and Losers in the Internet Economy

In a stressed US economy, employment in the Internet ecosystem is growing at an impressive rate, with small companies especially benefiting, according to a new study by Professor John A. Deighton and research associate Leora D. Kornfeld. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

Not Your Father’s State-Run Capitalism

The face of state-owned companies in Russia, China, and other countries has changed dramatically over the last several decades, says professor Aldo Musacchio. What capitalists need to know about these increasingly powerful competitors. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Why Do We Tax?

As the US presidential election bears down for November, it's prime time to ask how the income tax system could be improved. Assistant Professor Matthew C. Weinzierl suggests how. Open for comment; 20 Comments posted.

Entrepreneurship and Urban Growth: An Empirical Assessment with Historical Mines

Does entrepreneurship cause urban growth? Economists and policymakers often argue yes, but it is remarkable how little is known about what lies behind this relationship. This paper investigates the connection more closely using a link between historical mineral and coal deposits and modern entrepreneurship observed in US cities today. Because the process of bringing ores out of the earth is a capital-intensive operation that often benefits from large-scale operations, cities with a historical abundance of nearby mineral and coal mines developed industrial structures with systematically larger establishments and less entrepreneurship. These early industrial traits persisted long after the initial conditions faded through intergenerational transmissions, path dependency, and similar. Using this variation, the study finds the strong connection between a city's initial entrepreneurship and subsequent economic growth is still observed after removing the most worrisome endogeneity. This connection works primarily through lower employment growth of startups in cities that are closer to mines. Read More

Dividends as Reference Points: A Behavioral Signaling Approach

While managers appear to view dividends as a signal to investors, managers also argue that standard dividend signaling models are not focused on the correct mechanisms. These standard models posit that executives use dividends to destroy some firm value and thereby signal that plenty remains: The "money burning" typically takes the form of tax-inefficient distributions, foregone profitable investment, or costly external finance. Executives who actually set dividend policy overwhelmingly reject these ideas yet, at the same time, are equally adamant that dividends are a signal to shareholders and that cutting them has negative consequences. In this paper, the authors develop what they believe to be a more realistic signaling approach. Using core features of prospect theory as conceptualized by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (the fathers of behavioral economics), they create a model in which past dividends are reference points against which future dividends are judged. The theory is consistent with several important aspects of the data. Baker and Wurgler also find support for its broader intuition that dividends are paid in ways that make them memorable and thus serve as stronger reference points and signals. Read More

Legislating Stock Prices

This paper examines the importance of firms' relationships with their legal and political environment, and the actors who form this environment. Governments pass laws that affect firms' competitive landscape, products, labor force, and capital, both directly and indirectly. And yet, it remains difficult to determine which firms any given piece of legislation will affect, and how it will affect them. By observing the actions of legislators whose constituents are the affected firms, the authors gather insights into the likely impact of government legislation on firms. Specifically, the authors demonstrate that legislation has a simple yet previously undetected impact on firm prices. Read More

Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity

Most people believe that bad weather conditions reduce productivity. In this research the authors predict and find just the opposite. Using empirical data from laboratory experiments as well as from a mid-sized Japanese bank, the research demonstrates that weather conditions influence one's own cognition and focus. For indoor work contexts, worker productivity is higher on bad rather than good weather days. By reducing the potential for cognitive distractions, bad weather was actually better at sustaining individuals' attention and focus, and, as a result, increasing their productivity. Overall, findings deepen understanding of the factors that contribute to worker productivity. Read More

Unobserved State Fragility and the Political Transfer Problem

This paper describes how the dynamics of unobserved state fragility may generate negative consequences for other countries. Ahmed and Werker argue for the theoretical possibility that autocrats experiencing a windfall in unearned income may find it optimal to donate some of the windfall away in order to make the state less attractive a prize to a potential insurgent. Additionally, recipients of the aid may themselves become more repressive with high aid and fall into conflict with lower levels of aid. These joint phenomena make up what the authors term the political transfer problem. The largest windfall in unearned income of the 20th century, the period from 1973-85 during which oil prices were at all-time highs, produced political dynamics consistent with this model. Read More

Monetary Policy and Long-Term Real Rates

Samuel G. Hanson and Jeremy C. Stein document that distant real forward rates react strongly to news about the future stance of monetary policy. These movements in forward rates appear to reflect changes in term premia, which largely accrue over the next year, as opposed to varying expectations about future real rates. The evidence suggests that one driving force behind time-varying term premia is the behavior of yield-oriented investors, who react to a cut in short rates by increasing their demand for longer-term bonds, thereby putting downward pressure on long-term rates. Read More

Financial vs. Strategic Buyers

What drives either financial or strategic buyers to have a more dominant position in mergers and acquisitions activity at different points in time? The question of competition matters not only because the economic magnitude of this activity is so large, but also because the balance of power between financial vs. strategic acquirers changes the ownership structure of assets and alters the incentives and governance mechanisms that surround the economic engine of our economy. This paper explores how the possibility of misvalued debt markets can both fuel merger activity and alter the balance between PE and strategic buyers. The authors use an approach based on a model of private equity (PE) and strategic merger activity in which all players in the model make value-maximizing decisions conditional on their information. Findings suggest that the possibility of misvalued debt may have important impacts on both firms and investors, on who buys whom, and for default levels in the economy. Read More

Why Do We Redistribute So Much but Tag So Little? The Principle of Equal Sacrifice and Optimal Taxation

Why don't we tax personal characteristics such as height, race, and gender? The conventional optimal tax model suggests that we should, while no societies do. This paper proposes an explanation: conventional optimal tax theory has yet to capture the diversity of normative principles with which society evaluates taxes. Incorporating a role for the principle of equal sacrifice in how taxes are designed, a principle held by many leading thinkers to be the natural criterion of justice in taxation, substantially improves the match between the theory of optimal taxes and the reality of tax policy. This alternative reconciles three features of real-world policy that seemed incompatible in the standard model: limited taxation of personal characteristics not directly linked to ability, moderate marginal tax rates at high incomes, and substantial redistribution to the poor. Read More

Selection, Reallocation, and Spillover: Identifying the Sources of Gains from Multinational Production

Nations with greater openness to multinational production exhibit, on average, higher productivity and faster economic growth. This positive relationship, likely conditional on many factors, is often attributed to knowledge spillover, such as direct knowledge transfer through partnership, the possibility to learn from the innovation and experiences of foreign firms, and the interaction and movement in labor markets. However, another less stressed explanation centers on firm selection whereby competition from multinationals leads to market reallocation and survival of only the most productive domestic firms. Moreover, as only firms with greater productivity are able to overcome the fixed cost of foreign investment, countries with greater openness to multinational production are thus attracting foreign firms that are, by selection, more productive. The above mechanisms all imply a positive relationship between multinational production and host-country productivity but represent sharply different economic causalities and policy implications. The self-selection of multinational firms suggests that higher host-country productivity can reflect the productivity of self-selected multinational firms, instead of the causal effect of multinational production. In contrast, domestic firm selection and knowledge spillover imply multinational production causes higher aggregate, domestic productivity. How the latter two affect domestic production is countervailing: tougher domestic firm selection results in a contraction of domestic production while knowledge spillover creates positive externalities. In this paper the authors disentangle the roles of knowledge spillover and firm selection in determining the aggregate productivity and welfare impact of multinational production and quantify the relative importance of these distinct sources of gains. Results show that firm selection and market reallocation constitute an important source of productivity gains while its relative importance varies across nations. There are crucial implications for policy aimed at influencing foreign direct investment (FDI) flows. Read More

De Gustibus non est Taxandum: Theory and Evidence on Preference Heterogeneity and Redistribution

Individuals differ in the value they place on consumption relative to leisure. These preference differences help explain why some earn more than others, and they are a central part of popular and scholarly debates over taxation. In this paper, Benjamin Lockwood and Matthew Weinzierl show that variation in these preferences may also help explain why the extent of redistribution varies across countries and US states, and why (at least in the case of the United States) redistribution is weaker than conventional theory would suggest. More generally, Lockwood and Weinzierl argue that neglecting the role of preferences substantially impairs our understanding of both optimal and existing tax policy. Overall, findings suggest that this paper's generalized normative optimal tax model may be a better guide to policy advice than the conventional one. Read More

Trade Credit and Taxes

Economists have extensively analyzed the effects of taxation on many aspects of corporate financial policy, including borrowing and dividend distributions. But the effects of corporate income taxes on trade credit practices have been much less understood. Research by Mihir A. Desai, C. Fritz Foley, and James R. Hines, Jr. develops the idea that trade credit allows firms to reallocate capital in response to tax differences. Using detailed data on the foreign affiliates of US multinational firms, the authors are able to observe affiliates of the same firm operating in different countries and therefore facing different corporate income tax rates. Taken together, the findings illustrate that firms use trade credit to reallocate capital from low-tax jurisdictions to high tax jurisdictions to capitalize on tax-induced differences in pretax marginal products of capital. Their actions imply that tax rate differences across countries significantly affect capital allocation within firms, depressing investment levels in high tax jurisdictions and introducing differences between the productivity of capital deployed in different locations. Read More

Leviathan in Business: Varieties of State Capitalism and their Implications for Economic Performance

State capitalism, the widespread influence of the government in the economy, still looms large in developed and developing countries after over two decades of extensive state reform and privatization. Research by Aldo Musacchio and Sergio G. Lazzarini documents the extent and reach of state capitalism around the world and explores the economic implications of these new forms of state capitalism. There are three key arguments: First, state capitalism in the twenty-first century combines majority ownership of state-owned enterprises with a hybrid form that includes minority equity investments as well as other forms of support for private firms (such as subsidized loans). Second, all of those forms are present around the world, both in rich and poor countries, and in most cases they co-exist. Although some countries appear to have a prevalence of the minority investor mode while other countries emphasize the majority mode, in most cases the two modes jointly occur. Third, the emergence of those modes is explained by a host of environmental, political, and historical factors; and the economic performance of each mode depends on certain contingencies that should affect their benefits and costs, such as the economic distortions that they may generate. Read More

Are Factory Jobs Important to the Economy?

Summing Up: The manufacturing field is key to a strong economy, but a renewed focus on the industry will not necessarily lead to significant job growth, Jim Heskett's readers say. What do you think? Closed for comment; 51 Comments posted.

Big BRICs, Weak Foundations: The Beginning of Public Elementary Education in Brazil, Russia, India, and China

Economists have argued that the "Great Divergence" between the developed and underdeveloped world in the nineteenth century was reinforced—if not caused—by rapid improvements in schooling that occurred in the advanced economies. Explaining differences in economic development today may hinge on understanding why most societies failed to develop adequate primary education in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This study sheds new light on the comparative experiences of Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) during the formative years of their primary education systems. Read More

Observation Bias: The Impact of Demand Censoring on Newsvendor Level and Adjustment Behavior

As the fundamental model for managing inventory under demand uncertainty, the newsvendor model has received significant research attention, but behavioral issues—the focus of this paper—have been less well studied. Nils Rudi and David Drake demonstrate how different aspects of the newsvendor model, a rather complex managerial decision setting, result in a combination of behavioral deviations from the normative solution prescribed within existing literature. The results can help managers prioritize order quantity improvements based on product margins and the degree of demand feedback available in the setting that they operate in. Read More

Income Inequality and Social Preferences for Redistribution and Compensation Differentials

Market-based factors have substantially increased inequality in the United States over the last three decades. If the inequality caused by these mechanisms reduces social preferences regarding distributive equality, the inequality can become amplified and entrenched. The potential thus exists for the formation of a "vicious cycle" where increases in disparity weaken concern for wage equality or redistribution. This weakened concern affords greater future compensation differentials, a shrinking of the welfare state, and so on that further increase inequality and again shift preferences. Alternatively, changes in social preferences can counteract inequality increases. William Kerr characterizes how changes in inequality affect social attitudes towards government-led redistribution and compensation differentials. The results of this study provide mixed evidence regarding the vicious-cycle hypothesis. Kerr's findings suggest that social preferences regarding inequality adjust to desire more redistribution while allowing greater labor market inequality. Read More

Income Inequality: What’s the Right Amount?

Summing Up Comments were large in number and broad of opinion reflecting on Professor Jim Heskett's question, Does income inequality promote or stunt economic growth? Is there a "right" right amount of income disparity? Closed for comment; 67 Comments posted.

Greater Fiscal Integration Best Solution for Euro Crisis

Ministers and central bankers are working to solve the debt crisis that threatens the European integration project. Is there hope? There is reason to be optimistic, according to Harvard Business School's Dante Roscini, a former investment banker. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Only Capitalists Can Save Capitalism

Capitalism appears to be going through a crisis of confidence, evident in everything from Occupy Wall Street to middle-class riots across the globe. The fix? Capitalists themselves. An interview with the authors of Capitalism at Risk, Joseph L. Bower, Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard, and Lynn S. Paine. Open for comment; 9 Comments posted.

Carbon Tariffs: Impacts on Technology Choice, Regional Competitiveness, and Global Emissions

Under current emissions regulation such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Northeast US, imports entering the region fall outside the regulatory regime and incur no carbon costs. As a result, imports can compete within the carbon-regulated region with a new-found advantage, potentially altering the competitive balance between emissions-regulated and -unregulated firms. While implementing carbon tariffs—border adjustments— may appear to be a straightforward solution to this asymmetry, the potential for such a measure to be interpreted as a trade barrier, and thereby initiate a reciprocal tariff, has thus far stymied debate on the issue. This paper explores the impact of such border adjustments on firms' technology choice, regional competitiveness, and global emissions. The analysis shows that border adjustments (or lack thereof) play a vital role in determining firms' technology and production choices, both of which are fundamental operations management decisions that ultimately determine economic and environmental performance. Results have implications for each of the primary stakeholders: regulators making the policy decision regarding border adjustments; firms interested in understanding their competitiveness and location strategies under a border adjustment; and technology producers interested in assessing the potential impact of border adjustments on demand for cleaner technologies. Read More

Private Equity and Employment

Is there truth to the claim that leveraged buyouts bring huge job losses? In this paper, the authors examine employment responses to US private equity buyouts at a much more granular level than earlier research, exploiting a much larger sample of transactions, a more extensive set of controls, and a novel ability to track outcomes at firms and establishments (e.g., individual factories and offices). They also exploit the strengths of their data to explore new questions about private equity's role in the creative destruction process and its impact on restructuring activity inside target firms. Overall, they find that private equity buyouts catalyze the creative destruction process in the labor market as measured by gross job flows and the purchase and sale of business establishments, with only a modest net impact on employment. Research by Steven J. Davis, John C. Haltiwanger, Ron S. Jarmin, Josh Lerner, Javier Miranda. Read More

Spatial Determinants of Entrepreneurship in India

In South Asia, which regional traits encourage local entrepreneurship? While multiple studies have considered this question in advanced economies, especially for the manufacturing sector, there has been very little empirical evidence for developing countries like India. While India has historically had low entrepreneurship rates, this weakness is improving and will be an important stepping stone to further development. In this paper, the authors explore the spatial determinants of local entrepreneurship in India for both manufacturing and services. At the district level, their strongest evidence points to the roles that local education levels and physical infrastructure quality play in promoting entry. They also find evidence that strict labor regulations discourage formal sector entry, and better household banking environments encourage entry in the unorganized sector. The paper then evaluates how incumbent industrial structures of cities shape the type of entrants that emerge in local areas. Startups are more frequent for a city in industries that share common labor needs or have customer-supplier relationships with the city's incumbent businesses. This is among the first studies to quantify the spatial determinants of entrepreneurship in India. Moreover, it moves beyond manufacturing to consider services, which are very important for India's economic growth. Read More

The Forgotten Book that Helped Shape the Modern Economy

A British merchant's long-forgotten work, An Essay on the State of England, could lead to a rethinking of how modern economies developed in Europe and America, and add historical perspective on the proper relationship between government and business. An interview with business historian Sophus A. Reinert. Open for comment; 11 Comments posted.

Multi-Sided Platforms

Research in multi-sided platforms (MSPs) studies how payment networks bring together cardholders and retailers, shopping malls bring together shoppers and retailers, and video game systems bring together gamers and game developers. Andrei Hagiu and Julian Wright propose a new definition of MSPs that aims to capture what makes eBay, shopping malls, Yellow Pages directories, and dating websites different from "regular" firms such as a bakery or car dealership, as well as how to characterize less clear-cut examples. They also discuss the economic trade-offs that determine where organizations choose to place themselves on the continuum between MSPs and resellers, or between MSPs and input suppliers. Read More

Market Competition, Government Efficiency, and Profitability Around the World

Understanding whether and how corporate profitability mean reverts across countries is important for valuation purposes. This research by Paul M. Healy, George Serafeim, Suraj Srinivasan, and Gwen Yu suggests that firm performance persistence varies systematically. Country product, capital, and to a lesser extent labor market competition all affect the rate of mean reversion of corporate profits. Corporate profitability exhibits faster mean reversion in countries with more competitive factor markets. In contrast, government efficiency decreases the speed of mean reversion, but only when the level of market competition is held constant. The findings are useful to practitioners and scholars interested in understanding how country factors affect corporate profitability. Read More

Sovereigns, Upstream Capital Flows and Global Imbalances

Uphill capital flows and global imbalances have been at central stage in debates among academics and policymakers for quite some time. Many have argued that capital has been flowing upstream from fast-growing developing nations to stagnant countries in the last decade. At the same time, these emerging countries accumulate a vast amount of reserves. HBS Professor Laura Alfaro and coauthors dissect capital flows between 1970 and 2004 into private and public components for every type of capital, namely FDI, equity and debt. The authors show that upstream flows and global imbalances are manifestations of the same underlying phenomenon: the central role of official flows in determining the international allocation of capital. Private capital does not flow on average uphill from emerging market countries and total capital flows uphill only out of five Asian countries including China due to reserve accumulation which completely dwarfs the net inflows of private capital. Read More

HBS Faculty Views on Debt Crisis

In the midst of the US debt crisis, Harvard Business School faculty offer their views on what went wrong and what needs to be done to right the US ship of state. Open for comment; 27 Comments posted.

An Exploration of Optimal Stabilization Policy

The researchers explore alternative policy responses to a recession caused by a decline in aggregate demand, the situation affecting the global economy over the last several years. They show that policies that stimulate the economy at the lowest budgetary cost may not be the best policies in terms of well-being, as well-being depends not only on the level of activity but also on the composition of it (due to consumption, investment, and government spending). In their model of the economy, monetary policy is the best response, and if it is sufficient to stop the recession, government spending ought to move in the same direction as private spending. If monetary policy is insufficient or restricted, fiscal policy should try to replicate what monetary policy would do. If that option, too, is restricted, conventional policies that increase government spending are merited. Read More

Tax Policy and the Efficiency of US Direct Investment Abroad

The tax policy toward multinational firms has come under increased scrutiny with the rise of global activities of firms and concerns that these activities displace activities at home. This scrutiny has raised the question of whether current tax policy inefficiently subsidizes the foreign activities of firms. Mihir A. Desai, C. Fritz Foley, and James R. Hines, Jr. consider this claim by applying the theory of dynamic efficiency to the activities of multinational firms. Specifically, by comparing direct investment abroad with repatriated investment returns over the last sixty years, they conclude that firms are not investing to dynamically inefficient levels, suggesting that current tax policy is not an inefficient subsidy. Read More

Poultry in Motion: A Study of International Trade Finance Practices

When engaging in international trade, exporters must decide which financing terms to use in their transactions. Should they ask the importers to pay for goods before they are loaded for shipment, ask them to pay after the goods have arrived at their destination, or should they use some form of bank intermediation like a letter of credit? In this paper, Pol Antràs and C. Fritz Foley investigate this question by analyzing detailed data on the activities of a single US-based firm that exports frozen and refrigerated food products, primarily poultry. The data cover roughly $7 billion in sales to more than 140 countries over the 1996-2009 period and contain comprehensive information on the financing terms used in each transaction. Read More

The Surprising Power of Age-Dependent Taxes

Professor Matthew Weinzierl helps initiate a resurgence of interest in the idea of age-dependent taxes—that is, the idea of making the tax rate contingent upon the age of the tax payer. Using optimal tax theory as well as data from the US Panel Study of Income Dynamics, he shows how the administratively simple reform of age dependence can make the tax system substantially more efficient and more equitable. Read More

Is it Time for a National Bankruptcy?

Summing Up Is a national bankruptcy a tragedy or a needed lesson in fiscal reform? Jim Heskett's readers ponder the implications of a country going insolvent. Closed for comment; 47 Comments posted.

An Empirical Decomposition of Risk and Liquidity in Nominal and Inflation-Indexed Government Bonds

The yields on US Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) have declined dramatically since they were first issued in 1997. This paper asks to what extent the returns on nominal and inflation-indexed bonds in both the US and the UK can be attributed to differential liquidity and market segmentation or to real interest rate risk and inflation risk. Read More

Big BRICs, Weak Foundations: The Beginning of Public Elementary Education in Brazil, Russia, India, and China, 1880-1930

In deducing why some nations are more developed than others, it makes sense to look at their educational systems. While comparative studies on the subject focus either on developed nations or on differences between developed and developing economies, this paper hones in four of the largest developing nations at the turn of the twentieth century: Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC). Research was conducted by Aldo Musacchio of Harvard Business School, Laktika Chaundhary of Scripps College, Steven Nafziger of Williams College, and Se Yan of Peking University. Read More

Managing the Open Source vs. Proprietary Decision

In their new book, The Comingled Code, HBS professor Josh Lerner and London School of Economics professor Mark Schankerman look at the impact of open source software on economic development. Our book excerpt discusses implications for managers. Open for comment; 2 Comments posted.

Issuer Quality and Corporate Bond Returns

In research that could help regulators and policymakers tell if credit markets are becoming overheated, HBS professor Robin Greenwood and doctoral candidate Samuel G. Hanson suggest that measures of credit quality are just as important to monitor as the more traditional reviews of credit quantity. They also find that time-varying investor beliefs such as over-optimism, or tastes such as a heightened tolerance for risk, can contribute to fluctuations in credit quantity. Read More

Preference Heterogeneity and Optimal Capital Income Taxation

Professor Matthew Weinzierl and coauthors test the idea that savings, which is concentrated among highly skilled workers, ought to be taxed as part of an optimal tax policy. They find that the welfare gains from these taxes would be negligible. Read More

A Brief Postwar History of US Consumer Finance

The growth of the consumer finance sector after World War II provided a bevy of new financial options for Americans. These options led to a "do-it-yourself" approach to consumer finance, and an increase in household risk taking. In this paper, Harvard Business School professors Gunnar Trumbull and Peter Tufano, along with former HBS research associate Andrea Ryan, discuss the major themes that dominated the expansive postwar sector, including some of the factors that set the stage for the recent subprime mortgage crisis. Read More

Regulating for Legitimacy: Consumer Credit Access in France and America

Why have American households consistently borrowed so heavily? And why have their counterparts in France borrowed so little? This comparative historical analysis by HBS professor Gunnar Trumbull traces the roots of these different attitudes. In the United States, early welfare reformers embraced credit "on a business-like basis" as an alternative to expansive welfare states of the sort that were emerging in Europe. In France, early social planners saw consumer credit as a drain on savings that threatened to crowd out industrial investment. Regulatory regimes that emerged in the postwar period in the two countries reflected these different interpretations of the economic and social role of credit in society. Read More

Decoding Inside Information

Price setters and regulators face a difficult challenge in trying to understand the stock trading activity of corporate insiders, especially when it comes to figuring out whether the activity is a good indicator of the firm's financial future. This National Bureau of Economic Research paper discusses how to distinguish "routine" trades (which predict virtually no information about a firm's financial future) from "opportunistic" trades (which contain a great deal of predictive power). Research was conducted by Harvard Business School professors Lauren Cohen and Christopher Malloy and Lukasz Pomorski of the University of Toronto. Read More

Reversing the Null: Regulation, Deregulation, and the Power of Ideas

Who's to blame for the recent financial crisis? To some extent, the fault lies with scholars of economics, according to professor David Moss. In this paper, he argues that an academic focus on government failure in the second half of the 20th century led to the general idea that less was always more when it came to regulation--which, in part, contributed to the crisis. To that end, he calls for a fundamental shift in academic research on the government's role in the economy. Read More

Growth Through Heterogeneous Innovations

Economists have long recognized that innovation is central to economic growth and development. But as a profession, economics is just beginning to model the many types of innovations that exist and the amazing heterogeneity in the firms that conduct research and development--from General Electric to Silicon Valley start-ups. This paper provides theoretical and empirical evidence surrounding how firm size influences the types of R&D undertaken, with particular focus on choices to pursue exploration R&D (capturing new product lines) versus exploitation R&D (refining current product lines internally). From the choices made by individual firms and new entrepreneurs, the model then builds to consider aggregate economic growth. Research was conducted by Ufuk Akcigit of the University of Pennsylvania and William R. Kerr of Harvard Business School. Read More

The Intensive Margin of Technology Adoption

To anyone who observes the world, it's pretty clear that a country's poverty level is at least somewhat related to its adoption of new technologies. Historically, though, this fact has been difficult to quantify. Harvard Business School professor Diego Comin and MIT researcher Martí Mestieri are developing a model to analyze the relationship between economic growth and technology adoption. In their paper, they discuss both "extensive" margins (the length of time it takes a country to adopt any given new technology) and "intensive" margins (the number of technology units--smartphones, PCs, etc.--that the country adopts). Read More

Medium Term Business Cycles in Developing Countries

Business cycle fluctuations in developed economies tend to have very strong effects on developing countries, says a new study by Harvard Business School professor Diego Comin, Norman Loayza and Luis Serven of the World Bank, and Farooq Pasha of Boston College. The researchers have developed a quantitative model capable of explaining the amplitude and persistence of the effect that U.S. shocks have on Mexico's macroeconomic variables. The model is then used to provide an account of the drivers of business fluctuations in developing economies. Read More

Yes, You Can Raise Prices in a Downturn

If you and your customers understand the value represented in your pricing, you can—and should—charge more for delivering more. An interview on "performance pricing" with researchers Frank Cespedes, Benson P. Shapiro, and Elliot Ross. Read More

HBS Faculty Debate Financial Reform Legislation

Harvard Business School professors Robert Steven Kaplan, David A. Moss, Robert C. Pozen, Clayton S. Rose and Luis M. Viceira share their perspectives on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, slated to be signed this week by U.S. President Barack Obama. Read More

Trade Policy and Firm Boundaries

What is the impact of trade policies on firms' ownership structures? Drawing on analysis based on a unique database from Dun and Bradstreet that contains both listed and unlisted plant-level observations in more than 200 countries, HBS professor Laura Alfaro and coauthors describe a simple model in which firms' boundaries depend on the prices of the products they sell: The higher the prices, the more integrated firms will be. More generally, when equilibrium prices converge across economies, so do ownership structures. The reason behind these predictions is that integration, although more productive than non-integration because of its comparative advantage in the coordination of firms' operating decisions, also imposes higher private costs on enterprise managers. At low prices, the productivity gains from integrating have little value, and managers choose non-integration. As prices rise, the relative value of coordination increases, favoring integration. Read More

Surviving the Global Financial Crisis: Foreign Direct Investment and Establishment Performance

In 2008 and 2009 the world economy suffered the deepest global financial crisis since World War II. Countries around the globe witnessed major declines in output, employment, and trade, and world trade volume plummeted by more than 40 percent in the second half of 2008. Using a new dataset that reports operational activities of over 12 million establishments worldwide before and after 2008, HBS professor Laura Alfaro and George Washington University professor Maggie Chen study how multinationals around the world responded to the crisis relative to local firms, and the underlying mechanisms of those differential responses. By taking into account establishments both at the epicenter and on the periphery of the crisis, their analysis also considers multinationals' role as an international linkage in transmitting economic shocks. Read More

Cyclicality of Credit Supply: Firm Level Evidence

Bank lending falls in economic recessions. In particular, it shrank considerably during the recent economic downturn. Does such cyclicality of bank lending reflect a decline in banks' willingness to lend (the "loan supply" effect) or reduced demand for loans from firms (the "loan demand" effect)? The considerable attention that is given to banks' financial health by the Federal Reserve, Congress, and other branches of government is only warranted if the answer is supply. Focusing on U.S. firms that raised new debt financing between 1990 and 2009, HBS professors Bo Becker and Victoria Ivashina demonstrate that many large U.S. firms turn to the bond market when banks are in poor financial health. When times are better, the same firms get bank loans. Becker and Ivashina argue that the substitution between bonds and loans at the firm-level is a good economic proxy for the bank credit supply. Read More

When Do Analysts Add Value? Evidence from Corporate Spinoffs

The impact of financial analysts on capital market efficiency has been much debated in academia and in practice. A large body of academic research finds that analysts act as important information intermediaries who contribute to the overall efficiency of capital markets. Other research, however, has identified contexts in which the value of analyst coverage may be relatively more limited, such as when analysts face possible conflicts of interest, or when the company or situation they are presented with is especially complex. Still other research questions the informativeness of analyst recommendations in light of regulatory changes. In this paper, HBS doctoral graduate Emilie Rose Feldman and professors Stuart C. Gilson and Belén Villalonga examine 1,793 analyst reports written at the time of corporate spinoffs to determine how much value analysts create as information intermediaries in this setting. Spinoffs provide an interesting context for this purpose because the degree of information asymmetry between corporate insiders and investors is especially high. The paper is one of the first to provide very fine-grained detail on the quantity and types of analyses included in analyst reports. Read More

Does Diversification Create Value in the Presence of External Financing Constraints? Evidence from the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis

The global financial crisis of 2008-2009 has led academics and practitioners to question many widely held beliefs about business and economics. One such belief relates to the value of corporate diversification. Popular views about diversification have swung like a pendulum over the past half-century, from a generally positive view in the 1960s and 1970s, when many large conglomerates were formed, to a generally negative view in the 1980s and early 1990s, when many such conglomerates were dismantled or at least fell out of the stock market's favor. In 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis, a new view seems to be emerging that conglomerates are ready for a comeback. In this paper, HBS doctoral candidate Venkat Kuppuswamy and professor Belén Villalonga examine whether and why conglomerates have become more valuable during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. They find that they have, and that the increase does not simply reflect changes in investor perceptions but real differences in corporate finance and investment. Read More

Agency Costs, Mispricing, and Ownership Structure

Under what circumstances do firms access capital markets when the potential for agency costs is high? The prevailing view holds that controlling shareholders sell shares to outsiders only when internal capital is inadequate to fund attractive investment opportunities. While the role of market efficiency in corporate finance has attracted considerable research attention, the interaction of stock market mispricing with agency problems is not well understood. HBS doctoral graduate Sergey Chernenko and professors C. Fritz Foley and Robin Greenwood propose a new explanation—based on stock market mispricing—for why firms with a controlling shareholder raise outside equity, even when firms cannot commit not to expropriate minority shareholders. Read More

Unraveling Results from Comparable Demand and Supply: An Experimental Investigation

In many professional labor markets, most entry-level hires begin work at around the same time: for example, soon after graduating from college or graduate or professional school. Despite a common start time, offers can be made and contracts can be signed at any time prior to the start of employment, sometimes well over a year before employment will begin. "Unraveling" happens in markets in which competition for the elite firms and workers is fierce, but the quality of workers may not be reliably revealed until after a good deal of hiring has already been completed. Thus unraveling is sometimes a cause of market failure, particularly when contracts come to be determined before critical information is available. In this paper Muriel Niederle of Stanford, Alvin E. Roth of HBS, and M. Utku Ünver of Boston College consider conditions related to supply and demand that tend to facilitate or mitigate unraveling. Read More

The Job Market for New Economists: A Market Design Perspective

How should the most appropriate employers and job candidates find each other? Newly minted economists typically send applications to an average of 80 potential employers, and as a result, many employers receive hundreds of applications. It is extremely time-consuming to sort through all the applications, and as the process unfolds, there is a risk of coordination failure, in which employers and candidates who would be well-suited do not manage to create a match. In this paper, HBS professors Peter A. Coles and Alvin E. Roth and colleagues provide an overview of the market for new PhD economists and describe new mechanisms to improve the matching process. They conclude by discussing the emergence of platforms for transmitting job market information, and other design issues that may arise in the market for new economists. Read More

Location Strategies for Agglomeration Economies

Locations thick with similar economic activity expose firms to pools of skilled labor, specialized suppliers, and potential inter-firm knowledge spillovers that can provide firms with opportunities for competitive advantage. While certainly attractive, the lure of these agglomeration economies varies. Some firms should be wary of aiding their competitors by co-locating with them, for example, because each "agglomeration economy" differs in how readily competitors can leverage contributions made by others. HBS professor Juan Alcácer and Wilbur Chung of the University of Maryland develop a framework to better understand how firms respond to agglomeration economies. Read More

Fiduciary Duties and Equity-Debtholder Conflicts

Managerial decisions influence the distribution of value between different parties. This can lead to conflicting interests among financial claimants, such as holders of equity and debt. The Credit Lyonnais v. Pathe Communications bankruptcy ruling of 1991 before the Delaware court—a case widely perceived to have created a new obligation for directors of Delaware‐incorporated firms—provides an interesting opportunity to assess whether and how equity-debt conflict affects firm behavior. HBS professor Bo Becker and Stockholm School of Economics professor Per Strömberg outline important changes in behavior after Credit Lyonnais. Read More

To What Degree Does “Identity” Affect Economic Performance?

Summing up comments to his March column, Jim Heskett says perceptions vary widely on the issue of "identity" and economic performance, particularly as it applies to the U.S. What will it take to turn around negative trends in employee identity? (Forum now closed. Next forum begins April 2.) Closed for comment; 33 Comments posted.

Labor Regulations and European Private Equity

Recent theoretical models predict that countries with stricter labor policies will specialize in less innovative activities due to the higher worker turnover frequently associated with rapidly changing sectors. HBS visiting scholar Ant Bozkaya and HBS professor William R. Kerr examine how differences in labor regulations across European countries influence the development of private equity markets, comprised of venture capital and buy-out investors. In so doing, the researchers provide the first empirical evidence for this theoretical prediction at the industry level in the entrepreneurial finance literature. They also make a methodological contribution by demonstrating how jointly modeling the different policies for providing worker insurance delivers more consistent results than their individual relationships would indicate by themselves. Read More

A Macroeconomic View of the Current Economy

Concerned or confused by the economic environment? Take some lessons from history and concepts from macroeconomics to get a better understanding of how the economy works. A Q&A with HBS professor David A. Moss, author of A Concise Guide to Macroeconomics: What Managers, Executives, and Students Need to Know. Read More

The Global Agglomeration of Multinational Firms

(Paper formerly titled "The Global Networks of Multinational Firms.") When and why do multinationals group together overseas? Do they agglomerate in the same fashion abroad as they do at home? An answer to these questions is central to the long-standing debate over the consequences of foreign direct investment (FDI). It is critical to understand interdependencies of multinational networks and how multinationals influence one another in their activities at home and overseas. HBS professor Laura Alfaro and George Washington University professor Maggie Chen examine the global network of multinationals and study the significance and causes of multinational agglomeration. Their results provide further evidence of the increasing separation of headquarters services and production activities within multinational firms. The differential specialization of headquarters and subsidiaries leads to distinct patterns of agglomeration. Read More

The End of Chimerica

For the better part of the past decade, the world economy has been dominated by a unique geoeconomic constellation that the authors call "Chimerica": a world economic order that combined Chinese export-led development with U.S. overconsumption on the basis of a financial marriage between the world's sole superpower and its most likely future rival. For China, the key attraction of the relationship was its potential to propel the Chinese economy forward by means of export-led growth. For the United States, Chimerica meant being able to consume more, save less, and still maintain low interest rates and a stable rate of investment. Yet, like many another marriage between a saver and a spender, Chimerica was not destined to last. In this paper, economic historians Niall Ferguson of HBS and Moritz Schularick of Freie Universität Berlin consider the problem of global imbalances and try to set events in a longer-term perspective. Read More

Should Immigration Policies Be More Welcoming to Low-Skilled Workers?

Immigration is a topic that stirs passions globally, judging from the responses to this month's column, says HBS professor Jim Heskett. Readers suggested ways to bring immigration policy into alignment with the reality of what is happening at borders and in workplaces around the world. (Online forum now closed. Next forum begins January 6.) Closed for comment; 43 Comments posted.

Modeling a Paradigm Shift: From Producer Innovation to User and Open Collaborative Innovation

We are in the midst of a major paradigm shift: technological trends are causing a change in the way innovation gets done in advanced market economies. In addition to the model of producer-based design—the idea that most important designs for innovations would originate from producers and be supplied to consumers via goods and services that were for sale—two increasingly important models are innovations by single user firms or individuals, and open collaborative innovation projects. Each of these three models represents a different way to organize human effort and investments aimed at generating valuable new innovations. HBS professor Carliss Y. Baldwin and MIT Sloan School of Management professor Eric von Hippel analyze the three models in terms of their technological properties, specifically their design costs and architectures, and their communication requirements. The researchers argue that as design and communication costs decline, single user and open collaborative innovation models will be viable for a steadily wider range of design. These two models will present an increasing challenge to the traditional paradigm of producer-based design—but, when open, they are good for social welfare and should be encouraged by policymakers. Read More

India Transformed? Insights from the Firm Level 1988-2005

Between 1986 and 2005, Indian growth put to rest the concern that there was something about the "nature of India" that made rapid growth difficult. Following broad-ranging reforms in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the state deregulated entry, both domestic and foreign, in many industries, and also hugely reduced barriers to trade. Laura Alfaro of Harvard Business School and Anusha Chari of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyze the evolution of India's industrial structure at the firm level following the reforms. Despite the substantial increase in the number of private and foreign firms, the overall pattern that emerges is one of continued incumbent dominance in terms of assets, sales, and profits in both state-owned and traditional private firms. Read More

Endowments, Fiscal Federalism, and the Cost of Capital for States: Evidence from Brazil, 1891-1930

Do endowments matter in determining the cost of capital for a country or state? Endowments, according to Banco de México's André C. Martínez Fritscher and HBS professor Aldo Musacchio, are the conditions that determine what kind of commodities can be produced and exported in a determined geographical region. Studying the determinants of the risk premium of the bonds issued by Brazilian states between 1891 and 1930—a period of extreme decentralization of fiscal revenues and expenditures in Brazil—the researchers find that risk premia are highly correlated with state public revenue per capita. Because these revenues came, to a large extent, from the taxes states levied on commodity exports, the researchers argue that endowments mattered to determine the cost of capital for states. Read More

Medium Term Business Cycles in Developing Countries

At the end of 2007, the U.S. economy entered a recession that, by the first quarter of 2009, had reduced U.S. GDP by 2.2 percent. The Mexican economy was showing no sign of distress until the U.S. recession began. Despite that, Mexican GDP declined by 7.8 percent during the same period. This and similar episodes from other developing countries motivate several questions: Why do shocks to developed economies affect developing countries to such an extent? Does the response of developing economies to shocks that originate in their developed neighbors account for the larger volatility of developing economies? More broadly, what ingredients do macroeconomic models need to incorporate in order to account for the unique features of economic fluctuations in developing economies? To investigate these questions, the researchers developed a two-country asymmetric model to study the business cycle in developing countries. The mechanisms introduced in the model should provide an accurate account of business cycles in other developing countries. Read More

What is the Role of Government Vis-à-Vis Capitalism?

The debate this month boiled down to the extent of government's role in relation to capitalism, says professor Jim Heskett. While some readers argued for a relatively narrow role for government, others disagreed, and commented on the challenges it faces today. (Forum now closed. Next forum begins Dec. 3.) Closed for comment; 59 Comments posted.

HBS Begins Teaching Consumer Finance

Last spring HBS became the first top-ranked U.S. business school to offer a course in consumer finance. Professor Peter Tufano talks about the course and his determination to make consumer finance a broadly accepted academic pursuit. From the HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

Strategies to Fight Ad-sponsored Rivals

Many companies choose to finance themselves using ad revenues and offer their products or services—from newspapers to software applications, television programs, and online search—free to consumers. Yet the emergence of ad-sponsored entrants in various industries poses significant threats to the incumbents in these markets whose business models are often based on subscriptions or fees charged to their customers. Faced with the threat from ad-sponsored entrants, incumbents must choose strategies to respond. HBS professor Ramon Casadesus-Masanell and University of Southern California professor Feng Zhu create an analytical framework to establish guidelines for incumbent firms facing these issues. The researchers consider four alternative business models: pure-subscription-based; pure-ad-sponsored; mixed-single-product; and mixed-product-line-extension. Analysis shows that the optimal strategic and tactical choices change dramatically in the presence of an ad-sponsored rival. This is the first study to provide a comprehensive analysis of the competition between a free ad-sponsored entrant and an incumbent that has the option of choosing different business models. Read More

Clusters of Entrepreneurship

Economic growth is highly correlated with an abundance of small, entrepreneurial firms. This relationship is even stronger looking across industries within cities, and has been taken as evidence for competition spurring technological progress, product cycles where growth is faster at earlier stages, and the importance of entrepreneurship for area success. Any of these interpretations is possible, however, and the only thing that we can be sure of is that entrepreneurial clusters exist in some areas but not in others. This paper first documents systematically some basic facts about average establishment size and new employment growth through entrepreneurship, then analyzes entry and industrial structures at the region and the city levels using the Longitudinal Business Database. Read More

Systemic Risk and the Refinancing Ratchet Effect

During periods of rising house prices, falling interest rates, and increasingly competitive and efficient refinancing markets, cash-out refinancing is like a ratchet, incrementally increasing homeowner debt as real-estate values appreciate without the ability to symmetrically decrease debt by increments as real-estate values decline. This paper suggests that systemic risk in the housing and mortgage markets can arise quite naturally from the confluence of these three apparently salutary economic trends. Using a numerical simulation of the U.S. mortgage market, the researchers show that the ratchet effect is capable of generating the magnitude of losses suffered by mortgage lenders during the financial crisis of 2007-2008. These observations have important implications for risk management practices and regulatory reform. Read More

Breakthrough Inventions and Migrating Clusters of Innovation

In just a short period of time the spatial location of invention can shift substantially. The San Francisco Bay Area grew from 5 percent of U.S. domestic patents in 1975-1984 to over 12 percent in 1995-2004, for example, while the share for New York City declined from 12 percent to 7 percent. Smaller cities like Austin, Texas, and Boise, Idaho, seem to have become clusters of innovation overnight. Despite the prevalence of these movements, we know very little about what drives spatial adjustments in U.S. invention, the speed at which these reallocations occur, and their economic consequences. In this paper, HBS professor William R. Kerr investigates whether breakthrough inventions draw subsequent research efforts for a technology to a local area. Evidence strongly supports the conclusion that centers of breakthrough innovations experience subsequent growth in innovation relative to their peer locations. Read More

Input Constraints and the Efficiency of Entry: Lessons from Cardiac Surgery

Many professions rely on highly and variably skilled individuals. If a new firm is looking to enter a specific market, in addition to setting up a physical facility the company needs to hire or contract with specialized labor. In the short term, the supply of these specialists is relatively inelastic. From the point of view of economics, there remains a well-known potential for free entry to be inefficient when firms make entry decisions without internalizing the costs associated with the business they "steal" from incumbent firms. In 1996 Pennsylvania eliminated its certificate-of-need (CON) policy that had restricted entry by hospitals into expensive clinical programs, such as coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) programs—leading to an increase from 43 to 63 in the number of hospitals providing this service. HBS professor Robert Huckman and coauthors examine the welfare implications of entry in the market for cardiac surgery. Read More

Quantifying the Economic Impact of the Internet

Businesses around the advertising-supported Internet have incredible multiplier effects throughout the economy and society. Professor John Quelch starts to put some numbers on the impact. Read More

Business Summit: Ethics in Globalization

It is impossible to regulate against greed and ethical shortcomings. What can be done is to force greater transparency and accountability. Read More

“Too Big To Fail”: Reining In Large Financial Firms

Four little words have cost U.S. taxpayers dearly in government bailouts of once-mighty Wall Street firms. Congress can put an end to such costly rescues, says HBS professor David A. Moss, and the Federal Reserve could be a super regulator, adds senior lecturer Robert C. Pozen. But will Congress enact the regulatory cure that is required? From the HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

Business Summit: The Future of Market Capitalism

Professor Michael E. Porter leads a discussion on the shortcomings of the capitalist system and ways the business community can better serve broader societal interests. Read More

Business Summit: Lawrence Summers on Market Capitalism’s Historic Opportunity

Confronting today's economic challenges represents an historic opportunity to save capitalism from itself, and in doing so, to create more prosperity and improve the lives of more people, says Lawrence Summers. Read More

What Does Slower Economic Growth Really Mean?

Respondents to this month's column by HBS professor Jim Heskett came close to general agreement on the proposition that economic growth is not measured properly by GDP, calling for new indicators. Jim sums up. (Online forum now closed. Next forum begins July 6.) Closed for comment; 44 Comments posted.

Business Summit: Introduction to the Future of Market Capitalism

Professor Joseph L. Bower discusses a two-year research project exploring the views of global business leaders and HBS faculty on what might threaten the world's economic progress. Read More

The Unseen Link Between Savings and National Growth

Professor Diego Comin and fellow researchers find a little observed link between private savings and country growth. The work may offer a simple interpretation for the East Asia "miracle" and for failures in Latin America. Q&A. Read More

Misgovernance at the World Bank

Board members may be inclined to advance their own interests at voting time. This appears true for the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors, too. The problem? Many countries are being shut out of development funding. New research by Harvard Law School student Ashwin Kaja and HBS professor Eric Werker tells why misgovernance at the World Bank should be corrected. Read More

Gray Markets and Multinational Transfer Pricing

Gray market goods are brand-name products that are initially sold into a designated market but then resold through unofficial channels into a different market. Gray markets can arise when transaction and search costs are low enough to allow products to "leak" from one market segment back into another. Examples of industries with active gray markets include pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and electronics. Understandably, reactions to gray market encroachment are mixed. On the one hand, consumer advocates and governments have applauded the increasing role that gray markets have played in improving competition for domestic goods. On the other hand, multinationals have decried the increasing role of gray markets in the economy, with an estimated $40 billion in cannibalized sales resulting from gray markets in the information technology sector alone. This study investigates the optimal price of a multinational's internal transfers and the consequences of regulations mandating arm's-length transfer pricing. Read More

The Economics of Structured Finance

This paper investigates the spectacular rise and fall of structured finance. HBS professor Joshua Coval, Princeton professor Jakub Jurek, and HBS professor Erik Stafford begin by examining how the structured finance machinery works. They construct simple examples of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that show how pooling and tranching a collection of assets permits credit enhancement of the senior claims. They then explore the challenge faced by rating agencies, examining, in particular, the parameter and modeling assumptions that are required to arrive at accurate ratings of structured finance products. They conclude with an assessment of what went wrong and the relative importance of rating agency errors, investor credulity, and perverse incentives and suspect behavior on the part of issuers, rating agencies, and borrowers. Read More

Demographics, Career Concerns or Social Comparison: Who Games SSRN Download Counts?

Why do certain individuals commit fraudulent acts—in this case repeatedly downloading their own working papers from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) repository to increase the papers' reported download counts? HBS professors Benjamin G. Edelman and Ian I. Larkin study the relative importance of demographic, economic, and psychological factors leading individuals to commit this kind of gaming. Authors engage in deceptive self-downloading to improve a paper's visibility on SSRN, to obtain more favorable assessments of paper quality, and to obtain possible benefits for promotion and tenure decisions at those schools that consider download counts in tenure decisions. Data indicates that authors are more likely to inflate their papers' download counts when a higher count greatly improves the visibility of a paper on the SSRN network. Authors are also more likely to inflate their papers' download counts when their peers recently had successful papers—suggesting an "envy" effect in download gaming. Download inflations are also affected somewhat by career concerns (e.g. just before changing jobs) and by demographic factors, though these effects are smaller. On the whole, analysis suggests a heightened risk of fraudulent acts not only where economic returns are high, but also where prestige, status, or reputation are important. Read More

Securing Jobs or the New Protectionism? Taxing the Overseas Activities of Multinational Firms

Popular imagination often links two significant economic developments: the rapid escalation of the foreign activities of American multinational firms over the last 15 years, and rising levels of economic insecurity, particularly among workers in certain sectors. The presumed linkages between these phenomena have led many to call for a reconsideration of the tax treatment of foreign investment. Increasing the tax burden on outbound investment by American multinational firms, it is claimed, offers the promise of alleviating domestic employment losses and insecurity while also raising considerable revenue. HBS professor Mihir A. Desai looks beneath the trends, examining the economic determinants of outbound investment decisions and synthesizing what is known about the relationship between domestic and foreign activities. Read More

Inflation Bets or Deflation Hedges? The Changing Risks of Nominal Bonds

Are nominal government bonds risky investments that investors must be rewarded to hold? Or are they safe investments, whose price movements are either inconsequential or even beneficial to investors as hedges against other risks? U.S. Treasury bonds have performed well as hedges during the financial crisis of 2008, but the opposite was true in the late 1970's and early 1980's. John Y. Campbell, a Visiting Scholar at HBS, Harvard Ph.D. candidate Adi Sunderam, and HBS professor Luis M. Viceira explore such changes over time in the risks of nominal government bonds. Read More

CPC/CPA Hybrid Bidding in a Second Price Auction

How should online advertisers measure and pay for advertising deliveries? Options include pay per impression (CPM), per click (CPC), per action (CPA), or in proportion of the dollar value of merchandise sold. The advertisers who choose to pay one way may differ, systematically, from those who choose to pay in some other way. HBS professor Benjamin Edelman and doctoral student Hoan Soo Lee present the problem in an algebraic model in anticipation of measurement to follow in future work. Read More

Podcast: Preventing Future Financial Failures

Professor David Moss says we need ongoing federal regulation of the few "systemically significant" institutions whose demise could threaten financial stability. Read More

Unravelling in Two-Sided Matching Markets and Similarity of Preferences

Hiring policy is one of the most important determinants of a firm's success. The hiring process calls for collecting information in order to choose the best individual from among the candidates. In certain markets, however, firms hire workers long before all the pertinent information is available. Those early matches often turn out to be inefficient when the job starts. This phenomenon of contracting long before the job begins, and before relevant information is available, is called unravelling. Unravelling has been recognized as a serious problem in numerous markets, and measures designed to preclude it (such as centralized clearinghouses and enforcement of uniform hiring) have not always been successful. In order to provide insights for designing better measures to prevent unravelling in markets prone to it, this paper examines a two-sided matching market populated by firms on one side and workers on the other. Read More

An Exploration of the Japanese Slowdown during the 1990s

Why was the 1990s a lost decade for Japan? HBS professor Diego Comin argues that it was the combination of some shocks that lasted for about three years and the response of companies that drastically reduced their expenses in adopting new technologies and developing new ones. Though the severe shocks that hit the Japanese economy did not persist, the investments that Japanese companies and entrepreneurs did not undertake to improve technology and production methods during the 1990s propagated those shocks and made their effects very long-lasting. Read More

Turbulent Firms, Turbulent Wages?

Has more creative destruction among firms raised wage volatility in the United States? Most of the related research on the remarkable and well-documented widening of wage inequality in the U.S. over the past three decades focuses on permanent components of workers' earnings, particularly the rising returns to education and ability associated with technological change, trade, and de-unionization. Less is known, however, about the contribution of larger transitory fluctuations. HBS professor Comin and colleagues explore whether workers' average pay is more volatile in firms that have experienced higher turbulence in sales. Findings have important implications for theories of labor markets and optimal wage compensation schemes. Read More

Risky Business with Structured Finance

How did the process of securitization transform trillions of dollars of risky assets into securities that many considered to be a safe bet? HBS professors Joshua D. Coval and Erik Stafford, with Princeton colleague Jakub Jurek, authors of a new paper, have ideas. Read More

Spanning the Institutional Abyss: The Intergovernmental Network and the Governance of Foreign Direct Investment

Economic globalization presents severe governance challenges. The insufficiency of states as a source of surety for transactions that transcend national borders creates an opportunity for an increased role for organizations in the global institutional framework. The authors of this paper applied a network methodology to show how one type of organization, the intergovernmental organization (IGO), facilitates the cross-border investments of another type, the multinational corporation (MNC). They further document the interdependence between domestic institutions, and international institutions represented by IGOs. The results help to understand and explain which countries attract FDI, and from which senders. Results also point to an emerging rivalry between states and organizations as sources of governance in the global economy. Read More

Selling Out The American Dream

The American Dream has been transformed from an embodiment of the country's core values into a crass appeal to materialism and easy gratification. One result: the current economic crisis, says professor John Quelch. The federal government isn't helping. Read More

Economic Impacts of Immigration: A Survey

International migration is a mighty force globally. According to United Nations statistics, over 175 million people, accounting for 3 percent of the world's population, live permanently outside their countries of birth. This paper surveys the economic impacts of immigration for host countries, mostly emphasizing the recent experiences of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. The paper documents how migrant flows to some countries within this region are now of similar magnitude to the United States. The authors discuss the impact of immigration on national labor markets in terms of both immigrant assimilation and possible native displacement. Their survey concludes with the impact of immigration on the public finances of host countries, which is of particular policy importance within Europe today given ageing populations and fiscal imbalances. Read More

Making the Gambler’s Fallacy Disappear: The Role of Experience

The Gambler's Fallacy refers to the belief that chance is a self correcting process. The longer the random run of one outcome, the stronger the belief that the opposite outcome is due to appear. This paper asks whether the way we acquire information, by sequential experience or by simultaneous description, plays a critical role in the emergence of the bias in a binary prediction task (betting on red or black roulette outcomes, for example). The results show that the fallacy only occurs when decision makers experience outcomes over time and not when past outcomes are revealed all at once. The question is interesting since several recent papers on decisions from experience and descriptions suggest that the way people acquire information can have a significant effect on behavior. Read More

New Framework for Measuring and Managing Macrofinancial Risk and Financial Stability

This paper proposes a set of leading indicators of macrofinancial distress that can be helpful to policymakers and regulators in preparing for, mitigating, and maybe even preventing a credit crisis. These early-warning indicators of crisis are based on modern contingent claims analysis (CCA), which are successfully used today at the level of individual banks by managers, investors, and regulators. The authors' ultimate objective is to provide new tools to help governments and central banks manage financial sector risks. Read More

Unraveling Yields Inefficient Matchings: Evidence from Post-Season College Football Bowls

Many market institutions have evolved to coordinate the timing of transactions and to prevent them from taking place too early or at uncoordinated times. In the case of post-season college football games, called "bowls," during the early 1990s the determination of which teams would play in which bowls was often made with several games still remaining to be played in the regular season. Practically speaking, this meant that the teams with the best end-of-season records might not play one another, because at the time the matchings were determined it wasn't yet known which teams these would be. Over the last decade, however, this market has undergone a number of reorganizations that have delayed this matching decision until the end of the regular season. For this working paper, the authors used Nielsen rating data on television viewership and the AP sportswriters' poll of team rankings to show that, by matching later, the chance of matching the best teams has increased, and the result is an increase in television viewership. Read More

Does Market Capitalism Have a Future?

Does capitalism have a future? That intriguing topic was the subject of an HBS faculty colloquium led by professor Joe Bower, with fellow faculty members Dutch Leonard, David Moss, and Lynn Pain. Read More

Financial Development, Bank Ownership, and Growth. Or, Does Quantity Imply Quality?

Government ownership of banks, a common phenomenon, is among the most important policy tools used to influence financial development. But what is the actual effect of such ownership on the financial development of a country? This paper uses a policy experiment in India to evaluate the effect of government ownership of banks on development. Read More

Some Neglected Axioms in Fair Division

This paper considers allocation and bargaining problems, and introduces conditions that one might expect fair procedures to satisfy. However, not all conditions one might hope for can be satisfied simultaneously. Furthermore, some apparently plausible and widely proposed axioms and procedures have consequences whose undesirability clearly goes far beyond what can be excused in this way. Thus pitfalls lurk in the field of fair division. Read More

Where Does it Go? Spending by the Financially Constrained

Despite widespread interest by academics, businesspeople, and policymakers, much is unknown about the financial behavior of low-income individuals, particularly those who rarely or ever use banks. Do credit constrained consumers spend money more quickly than less constrained consumers? Do they spend the money in different manners (card-based merchant transactions versus cash ATM withdrawals)? Do credit constrained consumers have different spending patterns than the less constrained—do they buy different goods and services? This working paper provides preliminary data on spending patterns by over 1.5 million refund recipients, all of whom used either a loan or a settlement product to receive refund money faster than the IRS processes would have otherwise allowed. The results should inform the view of policymakers, financial service professionals, scholars, and consumer advocates. Read More

The Debate over Taxing Foreign Profits

Corporate tax policy has suddenly become a hot topic in the U.S., including the issue of whether current tax laws encourage American firms to outsource jobs to other countries. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai makes a case for exempting foreign profit from taxes if proper safeguards are put in place. Read More

Optimal Deterrence when Judgment-Proof Agents Are Paid In Arrears—With an Application to Online Advertising Fraud

It is commonplace for large entities (both advertisers and ad networks) to enter into relationships with numerous small agents such as Web sites, blogs, search syndicators, and other marketing partners. For example, one well-known affiliate network boasts more than a million affiliates promoting offers from the network's hundreds of merchants, and Google contracts with numerous independent Web sites to show Google's "AdSense" ads. Although these advertising agents are often small, they can take advantage of technology to claim payments they have not earned. In practice, the legal system cannot offer meaningful redress to an aggrieved advertiser or ad network. This paper argues that delayed payment offers a more expedient alternative—a sensible stopgap strategy for use when primary enforcement systems prove inadequate. Read More

Finding Missing Markets (and a disturbing epilogue): Evidence from an Export Crop Adoption and Marketing Intervention in Kenya

Why do farmers continue to grow crops for local markets when crops for export markets are thought to be much more profitable? Answers may include missing information about the profitability of these crops, lack of access to the necessary capital to make the switch possible, lack of infrastructure necessary to bring the crops to export outlets, high risk of the export markets, lack of human capital necessary to adopt successfully a new agricultural technology, and misperception by researchers and policymakers about the true profit opportunities and risk of crops grown for export markets. Ashraf and colleagues conducted an experimental trial with DrumNet, a social enterprise of Pride Africa, a nongovernmental organization, to evaluate whether a package of services can help farmers adopt, finance, and market export crops, and thus earn more income. This experiment was motivated by a recent push in development to build sustainable interventions that help complete missing markets. Read More

On Best-Response Bidding in GSP Auctions

Keyword auctions have become a critical source of revenue for Google and Yahoo!, among others. This new form of advertising has provided a new way for advertisers to reach customers. But advertisers also face the complex task of optimizing bids to increase their exposure while avoiding unnecessary costs. HBS professor Benjamin Edelman and colleagues analyzed a class of bidding strategies that attempt to increase advertiser utility under limited assumptions about other players' behavior. Under a strategy they call Balanced Bidding (BB), advertisers converge to the advertiser-preferred equilibrium—achieving stability of bids and reducing advertisers' costs relative to other possible outcomes. Read More

A Resource Belief-Curse: Oil and Individualism

Capitalism is not as widespread as economists would hope. Data from surveys of public opinion, as well as on the distribution of political parties, confirm the idea that capitalism doesn't flow to poor countries. In some countries, anti-market sentiment has increased in recent years, a period where the price of oil and other primary commodities have soared. This combination of anti-market sentiment and high oil prices has led to renegotiations of oil contracts and even nationalizations in some countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela. It is tempting for economists trained in the theory of political capture to argue that this is just another instance where special interests exploit the circumstances to make an extra dollar. Given that these nationalizations are often popular with the majority of voters, however, the researchers resist this temptation and ask if there are explanations where a positive correlation emerges between voter anti-market sentiment and dependence on oil. Read More

The Dynamic Interplay of Inequality and Trust: An Experimental Study

Trust makes economic agents more willing to engage in interactions involving the risk of being deceived. Like a lubricant, trust may positively influence efficiency and economic growth, and at the same time affect the distribution of wealth within an economy. However, trust is difficult to measure on both the microeconomic and the macroeconomic level. Survey data frequently discover individual attitudes toward trust, but cannot easily identify to what extent such self-reported attitudes reflect economic behavior, and how trust interacts with the dynamics of efficiency and distribution. This paper complements empirical and survey literature on the relationship between inequality and trust with the help of experimental games, which systematically investigate the dynamic interplay of trust, efficiency, and distribution. Read More

Fair (and Not So Fair) Division

"Fair" could be defined as what people of good will would want to be. This does not constitute an operational definition, however. This paper provides a specific procedure to calculate what could be considered fair and reasonable for various situations that require a fair division. A simple example would be a family that has inherited objects of artistic and/or sentimental value and wants to divide them up fairly while taking into account differences in taste. Laymen, mathematicians, and economists all have their own proposals for creating a fair division. Pratt suggests a procedure that, when put to the test of a range of examples, produces outcomes that accord with our intuitive sense of what is fair and desirable while previously proposed procedures do not. Read More

The Excess Burden of Government Indecision

Virtually all U.S. policymakers, budget analysts, and academic experts agree that the United States faces a very serious, if not a grave, long-term fiscal problem. Yet few policymakers will publicly say how or when they would fix it, perhaps because they fear being the bearer of bad news and getting voted out of office. Delaying the resolution of fiscal imbalances incurs two costs, however. First, it leaves a larger bill for a smaller number of people to pay. Second, and of primary interest to this research, it perpetuates uncertainty, leading economic agents to make suboptimal saving, investment, and other decisions, and reducing welfare. This research identifies and measures this "excess burden" of government indecision and finds that it is economically significant. Read More

Global Currency Hedging

This article is forthcoming in the Journal of Finance. How much should investors hedge the currency exposure implicit in their international portfolios? Using a long sample of foreign exchange rates, stock returns, and bond returns that spans the period between 1975 and 2005, this paper studies the correlation of currency excess returns with stock returns and bond returns. These correlations suggest the existence of a typology of currencies. First, the euro, the Swiss franc, and a portfolio simultaneously long U.S. dollars and short Canadian dollars are negatively correlated with world equity markets and in this sense are "safe" or "reserve" currencies. Second, the Japanese yen and the British pound appear to be only mildly correlated with global equity markets. Third, the currencies of commodity producing countries such as Australia and Canada are positively correlated with world equity markets. These results suggest that investors can minimize their equity risk by not hedging their exposure to reserve currencies, and by hedging or overhedging their exposure to all other currencies. The paper shows that such a currency hedging policy dominates other popular hedging policies such as no hedging, full hedging, or partial, uniform hedging across all currencies. All currencies are uncorrelated or only mildly correlated with bonds, suggesting that international bond investors should fully hedge their currency exposures. Read More

Why Do Intermediaries Divert Search?

(Previously titled "Designing a Two-Sided Platform: When to Increase Search Costs?") Conventional wisdom holds that at the most fundamental level, market intermediaries exist in order to reduce search and transaction costs among the parties they serve and that they are more valuable the larger the cost savings they generate. This would seem to be true of both traditional, brick-and-mortar intermediaries (retailers, shopping malls, brokers, magazines, market exchanges) and "new economy" ones (Amazon, eBay, iTunes, Yahoo), all of which connect buyers and sellers of goods or services. However, many intermediaries, while providing the relevant information, seem at some stage of the process to do the opposite of reducing search costs—and by purposeful design rather than by accident. Retail stores, for instance, stack the products they carry so that the most sought-after items are hard to find and thereby induce consumers to walk along aisles carrying other products. This paper challenges the conventional wisdom that intermediaries create value by reducing search and transaction costs. It proposes a model that sheds light on the economic motivations that in some contexts may lead intermediaries to make it harder for the parties they serve—consumers and third-party sellers—to find each other. Read More

Repugnant Markets and How They Get That Way

Repugnance is different in different places and at different times, says Harvard economist Alvin E. Roth in this Q&A. As someone who designs and builds new markets, he marvels at how society decides whether a transaction is "good" or "bad"—even when such transactions are very much alike. Read More

Proprietary vs. Open Two-Sided Platforms and Social Efficiency

The rising popularity of the open-source software movement has prompted many governments around the world to enact policies promoting open-source software systems at the expense of proprietary systems. Oftentimes, these policies seem to stem from a presumption (shared by some economists) that open software platforms are inherently more efficient than their proprietary counterparts. But is that so? This paper provides a simple model of two-sided platforms that clearly shows how this common intuition breaks down in two-sided markets. Read More

Merchant or Two-Sided Platform?

With ever more sophisticated logistics and the rise of information technologies, intermediaries and market platforms have become increasingly ubiquitous and important agents in the digital economy. While market intermediation is not a new phenomenon, the digital economy has revealed that there can be two polar types of intermediaries: "merchants," which acquire goods from sellers and resell them to buyers, and "two-sided platforms," which allow affiliated sellers to sell directly to affiliated buyers. As examples, retailers like Walmart.com and Amazon.com are (mostly) merchants; eBay is a pure two-sided platform; and Apple's iTunes digital music store exhibits both merchant and platform features. This research is a first pass at delineating the economic tradeoffs between the merchant and two-sided platform modes. Read More

Poverty, Social Divisions and Conflict in Nepal

More than 70 civil wars have occurred around the world since 1945. Understanding what causes such violent conflicts to begin and then fester is a topic of increasing research interest to economists. In Nepal the conflict known as "the People's War" began in 1996 and spread to all parts of the country, resulting in the deaths of more than 13,000 people. Do and Iyer considered a wide range of economic and social factors that they hypothesized could affect the likelihood of violent conflict, and econometrically examined their relationship with conflict intensity. These factors include geographic conditions (mountains and forests), economic development, social diversity including linguistic diversity, and government investment in infrastructure. Do and Iyer's nuanced approach allowed them to examine the spread of a single conflict across different parts of the country and over time. Read More

Firm-Size Distribution and Cross-Country Income Differences

Country-to-country differences in per-worker income are known to be enormous. Per capita income in the richest countries exceeds that in the poorest countries by more than a factor of 50. The consensus view in scholarly literature on development accounting is that two-thirds of these variations can be attributed to differences in efficiency or total factor productivity (TFP). Emerging research, however, suggests other possibilities. Alfaro and coauthors, applied a monopolistic competitive firm model to a new dataset of more than 20 million firms in nearly 80 developing and industrialized countries. They then calculated the extent to which differences in the misallocation of resources (as well as differences in the amount of physical and human capital resources) explain dispersion in income per worker. Their results suggest that misallocation of resources is a crucial determinant of income dispersion. Read More

Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets

While some kinds of transactions are repugnant at certain times and places, they are considered perfectly acceptable in other situations. This essay examines a wide range of examples, including the buying and selling of kidneys for transplantation. Repugnance has important consequences for the transactions and markets we see. Read More

Strategy-Proofness versus Efficiency in Matching with Indifferences: Redesigning the NYC High School Match

One of the goals of school matching systems is to limit the extent to which students and parents feel it necessary to "game the system" to be accepted at a favored school. Several years ago, the authors of this paper assisted the New York City Department of Education in redesigning the way it matched over 90,000 students entering public high schools each year. The situation in New York City is a hybrid: Some schools actively rank potential students, others have no preferences, and still others fall in between. This paper concentrates on the welfare considerations and incentives that arise in school choice due to the fact that many students are regarded by schools as equivalent. The research develops and expands on economic theory demanded by the design of school choice mechanisms. Read More

The Price of Capital: Evidence from Trade Data

Is the price of capital higher across different countries? Motivated by the fact that most countries import the bulk of machinery and equipment, Alfaro and Ahmed used an alternative trade data to capture differences in the price of capital goods across countries. On this basis they found evidence that capital goods are more expensive in poor countries. Read More

On The General Relativity of Fiscal Language

The failure to distinguish economics from linguistics is distressingly common in fiscal policy and theoretical research. Like measures of time and distance, standard fiscal measures such as deficits, taxes, and transfer payments depend on one's reference point, reporting procedure, language, and labels. Green and Kotlikoff's paper provides a general proof that such standard fiscal measures are economically ill-defined and instead reflect the arbitrary labeling of underlying fiscal conditions. Read More

How is Foreign Aid Spent? Evidence from a Compelling Natural Experiment

Foreign aid is viewed as a transfer of resources that can be used to generate meaningful growth in the recipient country's economy. How this aid is ultimately spent, therefore, determines how effective it is in achieving its purposes. Yet economists to date possess little understanding of how foreign aid trickles through a country's economy. This paper examines a foreign aid windfall that poorer Muslim countries have systematically received from rich, oil-producing Arab states. When the price of oil skyrocketed during the 1973-1986 oil crisis (and again after 2001), OPEC nations took a substantial portion of the money they received and gave it away as foreign aid, mostly to Muslim nations. When the price of oil crashed and income plunged in the oil-producing countries, the aid dried up. Werker, Ahmed, and Cohen examined the short-term effect of foreign aid on aggregate demand, the components of gross domestic product, and the balance of payments. Read More

Rediscovering Schumpeter: The Power of Capitalism

Economist Joseph Schumpeter was perhaps the most powerful thinker ever on innovation, entrepreneurship, and capitalism. He was also one of the most unusual personalities of the 20th century, as Harvard Business School professor emeritus Thomas K. McCraw shows in a new biography. Read our interview and book excerpt. Read More

All Eyes on Slovakia’s Flat Tax

The flat tax is an idea that's burst to life in post-communist Eastern and Central Europe, especially in Slovakia. But is the rest of the world ready? A new Harvard Business School case on Slovakia's complex experience highlights many hurdles elsewhere, as HBS professor Laura Alfaro, Europe Research Center Director Vincent Dessain, and Research Assistant Ane Damgaard Jensen explain in this Q&A. Read More

Dividends from Schumpeter’s Noble Failure

Before influential Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote the seminal Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, there came the difficult-to-digest Business Cycles. Although the book was a failure, professor Thomas K. McCraw, who has written a forthcoming Schumpeter biography, believes Business Cycles developed Schumpeter's thinking on capitalism and ultimately changed the practice of business history. Excerpted from Business History Review. Read More

Do Employment Protections Reduce Productivity? Evidence from U.S. States

Business leaders and policymakers often claim labor market rigidities reduce productivity and competitiveness by altering production choices from their unconstrained best. These theories are tested using the adoption of employment protection regulations by U.S. state courts over the last three decades. Consistent evidence is found following the introduction of the employment regulations that 1) firm production choices are altered, 2) firm employment turnover declines, and 3) firm productivity declines. Entrepreneurship rates also decline in the states after the court decisions. The interpretation of the results, however, is somewhat clouded by very large employment growth that follows the regulations too. Read More

The Political Economy of Capitalism

Capitalism is often defined as an economic system where private actors are allowed to own and control the use of property according to their own interests, and where the invisible hand of the pricing mechanism coordinates supply and demand in markets in a way that is automatically in the best interests of society. Government, in this perspective, is often described as responsible for peace, justice, and tolerable taxes. Bruce Scott argues in this chapter that for a capitalist system to evolve in an effective developmental sense through time, it must have two hands, not one: an invisible hand that is implicit in the pricing mechanism, and a visible hand that is explicitly managed by government through a legislature and a bureaucracy. Inevitably the actions of the visible hand imply a strategy, no matter how implicit, shortsighted, or incoherent that strategy may be. Read More

A New Framework for Analyzing and Managing Macrofinancial Risks of An Economy

The vulnerability of a national economy to volatility in the global markets for credit, currencies, commodities, and other assets has become a central concern of policymakers, credit analysts, and investors everywhere. This paper describes a new framework for analyzing a country's exposure to macroeconomic risks based on the theory and practice of contingent claims analysis. (A contingent claim is any financial asset for which future payoff depends on the value of another asset.) In this framework, the sectors of a national economy are viewed as interconnected portfolios of assets, liabilities, and guarantees that can be analyzed like puts and calls. The framework makes it transparent how risks are transferred across sectors, and how they can accumulate in the balance sheet of the public sector and ultimately lead to a default by the government. Read More

Male Circumcision and AIDS: The Macroeconomic Impact of a Health Crisis

The AIDS epidemic is a humanitarian disaster that has struck sub-Saharan Africa with particular severity, but its macroeconomic impact is much less certain. Though conflicting theories abound, empirically-based studies on the link between HIV prevalence rates and economic growth have shown no consensus. Given the significant medical evidence that male circumcision can reduce the risk of contracting HIV in Africa, tribal circumcision practices provide an "experimental" setting to test the impact of the AIDS epidemic on the overall economy. Read More

How Does Foreign Direct Investment Promote Economic Growth? Exploring the Effects of Financial Markets on Linkages

Does FDI help developing countries as much as we think? While theoretical models imply that FDI is beneficial for a host country's development—a belief widely shared among policymakers—the empirical evidence does not support this view. This paper bridges the gap between theoretical and empirical literature with a model and calibration exercises that examine the role of local financial markets. Ultimately, Alfaro and colleagues contribute to existing research that emphasizes how local policies and institutions may actually limit the potential benefits that FDI could provide to a host country. Read More

When Words Get in the Way: The Failure of Fiscal Language

Professor Jerry Green and coauthor Laurence J. Kotlikoff agree with the long-made argument that the deficit and related fiscal measures are basically labeling conventions with no intrinsic meaning. So why, they wonder, aren't economists getting the message? Read More

Optimal Reserve Management and Sovereign Debt

One of the puzzles in the study of emerging markets is understanding why developing countries accumulate reserves as a means to avoid a financial crisis, rather than work to reduce their sovereign debt. In 2005, for example, reserve accumulation totaled 20 percent of gross domestic product in low- and middle-income countries but only about 5 percent in high-income countries. The costs and benefits of reserve accumulation still aren't clear, nor do economists agree on the optimal level of foreign reserves that sovereign countries should hold. By testing a model of a small, open economy with non-contingent debt and reserve assets, Alfaro and Kanczuk explored the issue in depth. Read More

International Financial Integration and Entrepreneurship

Why does entrepreneurship flourish in some countries and struggle in others? Economists and policymakers are divided on whether the rapid rate of global financial integration, specifically the explosive growth of foreign direct investment, helps or hurts local entrepreneurs and domestic economies. To see the differential effects of restrictions on capital mobility on entrepreneurship, Alfaro of HBS and Charlton of the London School of Economics analyzed data on 24 million firms—listed and unlisted—in nearly 100 countries in 1999 and 2004. Read More

The Real Wal-Mart Effect

Critics are lining up to take shots at Wal-Mart's treatment of workers and a host of other alleged knocks against society. But the critics miss one big point, says Pankaj Ghemawat: Wal-Mart's overall impact benefits the economy and lower-income consumers. Read More

How Important Is the “Service Sector Effect” on Productivity?

In the cost-driven U.S. service economy, are worker benefits being sacrificed in the name of lower-cost services to customers? Are these social costs more than offset by the benefits of job creation, the consumption stimulus that spurs job creation, and lower unemployment? Closed for comment; 16 Comments posted.

Who Will Cast a Longer Shadow on the 21st Century: Friedman or Galbraith?

Both of these economists greatly influenced the political economics of the twentieth century. But what of this century? Which set of views will most shape the policies of governments and our way of life? Closed for comment; 39 Comments posted.

Information Dispersion and Auction Prices

How can auctions be used most effectively? Government and industry traditionally use auctions to price and allocate assets and contracts with high but unknown value. Millions of people use Internet auctions for goods that are often of unknown value (e.g., used goods, unknown brands). This paper asks: Do bidders behave in the way auction theory predicts they should? And, what are the effects of different types of information on prices? To answer these questions, Yin combined theory, econometric modeling, and survey data. Read More

Empirical Tests of Information Aggregation

While neither buyers nor sellers may be certain of the worth of used goods, both may possess private information about the value. Do prices become more informative as the number of bidders grows? Using data from a sample of eBay auctions for computers, Yin looked at how and under what conditions auction prices converge to the common value of a given item. Read More

Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist?

Adam Smith is best known for The Wealth of Nations, but professor Nava Ashraf believes another of his works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, presaged contemporary behavioral economics. Read More

Is Growth Good?

What are the moral consequences of economic growth? It’s a subject that political economist Benjamin M. Friedman tackles in a new book. Growth numbers may move markets, but do they also lull us into a false sense of satisfaction and security? Closed for comment; 7 Comments posted.

What’s the Future of Globally Organized Labor?

There’s an ongoing story of fragmentation in the union movement in North America. Will the concept of cooperation and individual sacrifice for the common good work in a global labor market populated by large multinational employers? Closed for comment; 11 Comments posted.

Restoring a Global Economy, 1950–1980

In his recent book Multinationals and Global Capitalism, professor Geoffrey Jones dissects the influence of multinationals on the world economy. This excerpt recalls the rebuilding of the global economy following World War II. Read More

Microsoft vs. Open Source: Who Will Win?

Using formal economic modelling, professors Pankaj Ghemawat and Ramon Casadesus-Masanell consider the competitive dynamics of the software wars between Microsoft and open source. Read our interview. Read More

Microfinance: A Way Out for the Poor

Microfinance is not a magic ticket out of poverty, but it can help both the loan receiver as well as the loan giver, says Harvard Business School’s Michael Chu. Read More

Business History around the World

One way to understand management trends and ideas today is to look at yesterday. HBS entrepreneurship professor Geoffrey G. Jones and co-editor Franco Amatori have done just that with their new book, Business History around the World. Read More

Can We Have Too Much Productivity Improvement?

From airlines to professional services, is improvement in productivity always a good thing, especially right now? Is it the ultimate answer for foundering economies? Or will it increase the ranks of the unemployed? You decide. Closed for comment; 38 Comments posted.

Historical Perspective: Levitt Shaped the Debate

Theodore Levitt’s work was outrageous—and outrageously smart. HBS professors Richard S. Tedlow and Rawi Abdelal put "The Globalization of Markets" in perspective. Read More

At the Center of Corporate Scandal Where Do We Go From Here?

What’s at the heart of recent corporate misdeeds and scandals? Harvard Business School Dean Kim B. Clark looks at the causes and the potential remedies needed to restore public trust in institutions of business. Read More

The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs

Companies reflexively look to charismatic CEOs to save them, and that's a bad idea, says HBS professor Rakesh Khurana. In this excerpt from his new book and in an e-mail interview with HBS Working Knowledge, he explains how the CEO cult arose. Read More

The Role of Government When All Else Fails

A new book by Harvard Business School professor David A. Moss explores government's under-appreciated role as risk manager in everything from disaster relief to Social Security. How did this role evolve into something today that touches on almost every aspect of economic life? Read More

How Business Strategy Tamed the “Invisible Hand”

Theories of competition and strategic planning are essential ingredients in running a global business. In this excerpt from Business History Review, HBS professor Pankaj Ghemawat outlines their development. Read More

What’s Next for Japan

Japan, it’s clear, is in the midst of a classic challenge facing nations in a rapidly globalizing world economy: struggling to maintain beneficial social traditions, yet also yearning to be competitive. But can it do both? In a debate led by Harvard University professor Michael E. Porter, experts contemplated the future for Japan. Read More

The Simple Economics of Open Source

What motivates thousands of computer programmers-and even the companies that employ them-to share their code with the world? The growing use of so-called "open source" software may not seem, at first glance, to make much economic sense. But according to research by HBS Professor Josh Lerner and his colleague Jean Tirole, economics may actually help explain why open source works as well as it does. Read More

Porter’s Perspective: Competing in the Global Economy

Clusters — critical masses, in one place, of unusual competitive success in particular fields — is one of the key concepts of HBS Professor Michael Porter's seminal book The Competitive Advantage of Nations. Porter's ongoing research into clusters confirms that, even in an age of increasing globalization, these local centers of knowledge, relationships and motivation are a vital source of competitive advantage for advanced and emerging countries alike. Porter talks about competition in the global economy and other topics in this recent interview. Read More

It Came in the First Ships: Capitalism in America

The Virginians in Jamestown, the Puritans in Massachusetts Bay, the Quakers in Pennsylvania and other early settlers of what later became the United States all brought with them elements of capitalism, precursors of the future nation's market-driven direction. In this excerpt from his article "American Capitalism" in Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions, HBS Professor Thomas K. McCraw looks at the early years of capitalism on the North American continent. Read More