Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer 2013 Journal of Economic Perspectives On-Line

The Summer 2013 Issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives is now available on-line. Like all issues of JEP back to the first issues in Summer 1987, it is freely available courtesy of the American Economic Association. I've been the managing editor of JEP since that first issue, so for me, it's issue #105.

The issue has two main symposia: one has six papers with various perspectives on the top 1% of the income distribution; the other has four papers on what has happened with the euro. There's also a paper at the end about the legacy of John Maynard Keynes as a highly successful institutional investor, and my own "Recommendations for Further Reading" column. I'll post more about specific papers next week. For now, here are abstracts of the articles, with the article titles in boldface, and weblinks.

Symposium: The Top 1 Percent

"The Top 1 Percent in International and Historical Perspective," by Facundo Alvaredo, Anthony B. Atkinson, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez
The top 1 percent income share has more than doubled in the United States over the last 30 years, drawing much public attention in recent years. While other English-speaking countries have also experienced sharp increases in the top 1 percent income share, many high-income countries such as Japan, France, or Germany have seen much less increase in top income shares. Hence, the explanation cannot rely solely on forces common to advanced countries, such as the impact of new technologies and globalization on the supply and demand for skills. Moreover, the explanations have to accommodate the falls in top income shares earlier in the twentieth century experienced in virtually all high-income countries. We highlight four main factors. The first is the impact of tax policy, which has varied over time and differs across countries. Top tax rates have moved in the opposite direction from top income shares. The effects of top rate cuts can operate in conjunction with other mechanisms. The second factor is a richer view of the labor market, where we contrast the standard supply-side model with one where pay is determined by bargaining and the reactions to top rate cuts may lead simply to a redistribution of surplus. Indeed, top rate cuts may lead managerial energies to be diverted to increasing their remuneration at the expense of enterprise growth and employment. The third factor is capital income. Overall, private wealth (relative to income) has followed a U-shaped path over time, particularly in Europe, where inherited wealth is, in Europe if not in the United States, making a return. The fourth, little investigated, element is the correlation between earned income and capital income, which has substantially increased in recent decades in the United States.
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"Defending the One Percent," by N. Gregory Mankiw
 Imagine a society with perfect economic equality. Then, one day, this egalitarian utopia is disturbed by an entrepreneur with an idea for a new product. Think of the entrepreneur as Steve Jobs as he develops the iPod, J. K. Rowling as she writes her Harry Potter books, or Steven Spielberg as he directs his blockbuster movies. The new product makes the entrepreneur much richer than everyone else. How should the entrepreneurial disturbance in this formerly egalitarian outcome alter public policy? Should public policy remain the same, because the situation was initially acceptable and the entrepreneur improved it for everyone? Or should government policymakers deplore the resulting inequality and use their powers to tax and transfer to spread the gains more equally? In my view, this thought experiment captures, in an extreme and stylized way, what has happened to US society over the past several decades. Since the 1970s, average incomes have grown, but the growth has not been uniform across the income distribution. The incomes at the top, especially in the top 1 percent, have grown much faster than average. These high earners have made significant economic contributions, but they have also reaped large gains. The question for public policy is what, if anything, to do about it.
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"It's the Market: The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent," Steven N. Kaplan and Joshua Rauh
One explanation that has been proposed for rising inequality is that technical change allows highly talented individuals, or "superstars" to manage or perform on a larger scale, applying their talent to greater pools of resources and reaching larger numbers of people, thus becoming more productive and higher paid. Others argue that managerial power has increased in a way that allows those at the top to receive higher pay, that social norms against higher pay levels have broken down, or that tax policy affects the distribution of surpluses between employers and employees. We offer evidence bearing on the different theories explaining the rise in inequality in the United States over recent decades. First we look the increase in pay at the highest income levels across occupations. We consider the income share of the top 1 percent over time. And we turn to evidence on inequality of wealth at the top. In looking at the wealthiest Americans, we find that those in the Forbes 400 are less likely to have inherited their wealth or to have grown up wealthy. The Forbes 400 of today also are those who were able to access education while young and apply their skills to the most scalable industries: technology, finance, and mass retail. We believe that the US evidence on income and wealth shares for the top 1 percent is most consistent with a "superstar"-style explanation rooted in the importance of scale and skill-biased technological change. It is less consistent with an argument that the gains to the top 1 percent are rooted in greater managerial power or changes in social norms about what managers should earn.
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"The Pay of Corporate Executives and Financial Professionals as Evidence of Rents in Top 1 Percent Incomes," by Josh Bivens and Lawrence Mishel

The debate over the extent and causes of rising inequality of American incomes and wages has now raged for at least two decades. In this paper, we will make four arguments. First, the increase in the incomes and wages of the top 1 percent over the last three decades should be interpreted as driven largely by the creation and/or redistribution of economic rents, and not simply as the outcome of well-functioning competitive markets rewarding skills or productivity based on marginal differences. This rise in rents accruing to the top 1 percent could be the result of increased opportunities for rentshifting, increased incentives for rent-shifting, or a combination of both. Second, this rise in incomes at the very top has been the primary impediment to having growth in living standards for low- and moderate-income households approach the growth rate of economy-wide productivity. Third, because this rise in top incomes is largely driven by rents, there is the potential for checking (or even reversing) this rise through policy measures with little to no adverse impact on overall economic growth. Lastly, this analysis suggests two complementary approaches for policymakers wishing to reverse the rise in the top 1 percent's share of income: dismantling the institutional sources of their increased ability to channel rents their way and/or reducing the return to this rent-seeking by significantly increasing marginal rates of taxation on high incomes.
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"Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility," Miles Corak
My focus is on the degree to which increasing inequality in the high-income countries, particularly in the United States, is likely to limit economic mobility for the next generation of young adults. I discuss the underlying drivers of opportunity that generate the relationship between inequality and intergenerational mobility. The goal is to explain why America differs from other countries, how intergenerational mobility will change in an era of higher inequality, and how the process is different for the top 1 percent. I begin by presenting evidence that countries with more inequality at one point in time also experience less earnings mobility across the generations, a relationship that has been called "The Great Gatsby Curve." The interaction between families, labor markets, and public policies all structure a child's opportunities and determine the extent to which adult earnings are related to family background -- but they do so in different ways across national contexts. Both cross-country comparisons and the underlying trends suggest that these drivers are all configured most likely to lower, or at least not raise, the degree of intergenerational earnings mobility for the next generation of Americans coming of age in a more polarized labor market. This trend will likely continue unless there are changes in public policy that promote the human capital of children in a way that offers relatively greater benefits to the relatively disadvantaged.
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"Why Hasn't Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?" by Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal
During the past two generations, democratic forms have coexisted with massive increases in economic inequality in the United States and many other advanced democracies. Moreover, these new inequalities have primarily benefited the top 1 percent and even the top .01 percent. These groups seem sufficiently small that economic inequality could be held in check by political equality in the form of "one person, one vote." In this paper, we explore five possible reasons why the US political system has failed to counterbalance rising inequality. First, both Republicans and many Democrats have experienced an ideological shift toward acceptance of a form of free market capitalism that offers less support for government provision of transfers, lower marginal tax rates for those with high incomes, and deregulation of a number of industries. Second, immigration and low turnout of the poor have combined to make the distribution of voters more weighted to high incomes than is the distribution of households. Third, rising real income and wealth has made a larger fraction of the population less attracted to turning to government for social insurance. Fourth, the rich have been able to use their resources to influence electoral, legislative, and regulatory processes through campaign contributions, lobbying, and revolving door employment of politicians and bureaucrats. Fifth, the political process is distorted by institutions that reduce the accountability of elected officials to the majority and hampered by institutions that combine with political polarization to create policy gridlock.
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Symposium: The Euro

"What Is European Integration Really About? A Political Guide for Economists," by Enrico Spolaore
Europe's monetary union is part of a broader process of integration that started in the aftermath of World War II. In this "political guide for economists," we look at the creation of the euro within the bigger picture of European integration. How and why were European institutions established? What is European integration really about? We address these questions from a political-economy perspective, building on ideas and results from the economic literature on the formation of states and political unions. Specifically, we look at the motivations, assumptions, and limitations of the European strategy initiated by Jean Monnet and his collaborators of partially integrating policy functions in a few areas with the expectation that more integration will follow in other areas in a sort of chain reaction toward an "ever-closer union." The euro with its current problems is a child of that strategy and its limits.
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"Political Credit Cycles: The Case of the Eurozone," by Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Luis Garicano and Tano Santos
We study the mechanisms through which the entry into the euro delayed, rather than advanced, key economic reforms in the eurozone periphery and led to the deterioration of important institutions in these countries. We show that the abandonment of the reform process and the institutional deterioration, in turn, not only reduced their growth prospects but also fed back into financial conditions, prolonging the credit boom and delaying the response to the bubble when the speculative nature of the cycle was already evident. We analyze empirically the interrelation between the financial boom and the reform process in Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal and, by way of contrast, in Germany, a country that did experience a reform process after the creation of the euro.
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"Cross of Euros," Kevin H. O'Rourke and Alan M. Taylor
The eurozone currently confronts severe short-run macroeconomic adjustment problems and a deficient institutional architecture that has to be reformed in the longer run. Europe's efforts at economic and monetary union are historically unprecedented. However, the gold standard provides lessons regarding what will and won't work, macroeconomically and politically, in the short run, while US history provides long-run lessons regarding appropriate institutional structures. The latter also suggests that institutional reform only happens at times of great crisis, and that it cannot be taken for granted. The eurozone's leaders may therefore ultimately have to take heed of the lessons of history regarding currency union breakups.
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"Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity and the Case for Temporary Inflation in the Eurozone," by Stephanie Schmitt-Grohé and Martin Uribe
Since the onset of the Great Recession in peripheral Europe, nominal hourly wages have not fallen from the high levels they had reached during the boom years -- this in spite of widespread increases in unemployment. This observation evokes a well-known narrative in which nominal downward wage rigidity is at the center of the current unemployment problem. We embed downward nominal wage rigidity into a small open economy with tradable and nontradable goods and a fixed exchange-rate regime. In this model, negative external shocks cause involuntary unemployment. We analyze a number of national and supranational policy options for alleviating the unemployment problem caused by the combination of downward nominal wage rigidity and a fixed exchange-rate regime. We argue that, in spite of the existence of a battery of domestic policies that could be effective in solving the unemployment problem, it is unlikely that a solution will come from within national borders. This leaves supranational monetary stimulus as the most compelling avenue out of the crisis. Our model predicts that full employment in peripheral Europe could be restored by raising the euro area annual rate of inflation to about 4 percent for the next five years.
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"Retrospectives: John Maynard Keynes, Investment Innovator," by David Chambers and Elroy Dimson
John Maynard Keynes made a major contribution to the development of professional investment management. Based on detailed archival research at King's College, Cambridge, we describe Keynes' investment philosophy, his investment performance, and the evolution of his investment approach as the manager of a large educational endowment. His portfolios were actively managed and unconventional. He was an investment innovator both in making a substantial allocation to the then new institutional asset class of common stocks as well as in championing value investing.
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"Recommendations for Further Reading," by Timothy Taylor
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Notes and Errata

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