09 Dec 2011
Residential Mobility and Public Policy in OECD Countries
Residential mobility is closely tied to the functioning of housing markets and has important implications for labour mobility and the efficient allocation of resources across the economy. This paper analyses patterns of residential mobility across OECD countries and the role of housing policies in enhancing or hampering residential mobility. Based on cross-sectional household data for 25countries, the results suggest that differences in residential mobility across countries are partially related to differences in public policies. After controlling for household and country- specific characteristics, residential mobility is higher in countries with lower transaction costs, more responsive housing supply, lower rent controls and tenant protection. Residential mobility tends also to be higher in environments with greater access to credit, suggesting that financial deregulation – by lowering borrowing costs and facilitating access to mortgage finance – facilitates mobility. This cross- country evidence is supported by city and state-level evidence for the United States.
JEL classification: R23, R31, R21, R38, H20.
Keywords: Housing markets, residential mobility, transaction costs, rental market regulations
09 Dec 2011
The Evolution of Homeownership Rates in Selected OECD Countries: Demographic and Public Policy Influences
Homeownership rates have increased significantly in many OECD countries over recent decades. Using micro-econometric decomposition techniques, this paper shows that part of this increase can be explained by changes in the characteristics of households, including age, household structure, income and education. Nevertheless, a significant portion of the change in homeownership rates remains unexplained by shifts in household characteristics, leaving a potential role for public policy in explaining developments in homeownership rates. Panel estimates suggest that the relaxation of down-payment constraints on mortgage loans has increased homeownership rates among credit-constrained households over recent decades, resulting in a rise in the aggregate homeownership rate that is comparable with the impact of population ageing. In countries where tax relief on mortgage debt financing is generous, however, the expansionary impact of mortgage market innovations on homeownership is smaller. This is consistent with the tendency for such housing tax relief to be capitalised into real house prices, which may crowd-out some financially constrained households from homeownership at the margin. The impact of housing policies regulating the functioning of the rental market, such as rent regulation and provisions for tenure security, on tenure choice is also explored.
JEL classification: R21, R31, G21, H24.
Keywords: Housing markets, homeownership, mortgage markets, financial regulation, taxation.
09 Dec 2011
How Can Fiscal Councils Strengthen Fiscal Performance?
There is growing interest in the role of independent fiscal institutions, or fiscal councils, in helping to improve fiscal performance. This article provides some guidance on the scope for improving fiscal performance through fiscal councils based on the available literature and the range of fiscal institutions in the OECD countries. The effectiveness of fiscal councils hinges on several factors, including having full autonomy within the scope of their mandates, active and unfettered dissemination of their analysis, and their credibility. Experience and empirical evidence suggest that delegating macroeconomic forecasting to an independent fiscal council can indeed reduce forecasting bias. There is some empirical evidence that independent fiscal institutions can buttress a government’s capacity to comply with a numerical rule. Good fiscal institutions are a necessary condition for achieving disciplined fiscal performance. Experience demonstrates, however, that their existence is not sufficient. Without strong and sustained political commitment to a medium-term fiscal goal and, where relevant, to the mandate of a fiscal council, durable improvements in fiscal performance will remain elusive.
09 Dec 2011
Are ICT Users More Innovative?
The aim of this study is to assess the effects of information and communications technologies (ICTs) on firms’ capabilities to innovate in a selection of OECD countries. Our findings support the hypothesis that ICTs act as an enabler of innovation, particularly for product and marketing innovation, in both manufacturing and services. However, we did not find any evidence that ICT use increases the capability of a firm to co-operate, to develop innovation in-house or to introduce products new to the market. These results suggest that ICTs enable firms to adopt innovation but they do not increase their "inventive" capabilities.
09 Dec 2011
Public Policies and Investment in Network Infrastructure
How can public policy influence investment in infrastructure in network industries? Network industries rely mainly on fixed networks to deliver services, with investment being lumpy and largely irreversible. As a result, public policies – such as public provision, the introduction of competition and the regulatory environment – can potentially have an important impact on investment behaviour, with the net effect depending on the extent that policies boost socially-productive investment or reduce inefficient investment. Drawing on responses to a unique questionnaire assessing public policy in the network sectors, the information in this paper presents a systematic picture of relevant policies in place across OECD countries. Econometric analysis – both at the sectoral and firm level – finds that public policies can have significant quantitative effects. In particular, the introduction of competitive pressures through the reduction of barriers to entry and the combination of regulator independence and incentive regulation can promote investment in the sector.
09 Dec 2011
Current Account Imbalances
This article explores the impact of structural policies on saving, investment, and current accounts in OECD and non-OECD economies. Since the current account effects of structural reforms are often complex and ambiguous from a theoretical perspective, new OECD empirical analysis is carried out. Reduced-form equations are estimated for a panel of 30 OECD countries as well as for a panel/cross-section of 117 OECD and non- OECD countries that relate saving, investment and current accounts to policy indicators and a set of macroeconomic control variables. This work suggests that structural reforms may influence saving, investment and current accounts through their impact on macroeconomic conditions such as productivity growth or public revenues and expenditures, but also more directly: i) higher social spending (in particular on health care) is found to lower the saving rate and thereby to weaken the current account, most likely reflecting lower precautionary saving; ii) product market liberalisation temporarily boosts investment and thus also weakens the current account; iii) financial market deregulation may lower the saving rate, though only in less developed countries; iv) stricter employment protection may be associated with lower saving rates if unemployment benefits are low, as well as with higher investment rates possibly due to greater substitution of capital for labour. A scenario analysis indicates that fiscal consolidation and structural reforms in the main world economies could significantly reduce current global imbalances, possibly by about one-third.
09 Dec 2011
Exploring the Relationship Between Education and Obesity
An epidemic of obesity has been developing in virtually all OECD countries over the last 30 years. Existing evidence provides a strong suggestion that such an epidemic has affected certain social groups more than others. In particular, a better education appears to be associated with a lower likelihood of obesity, especially among women. This paper sheds light on the nature and the strength of the correlation between education and obesity. Analyses of health survey data from Australia, Canada, England, and Korea were undertaken with the aim of exploring this relationship. Social gradients in obesity were assessed across the entire education spectrum, overall and in different population sub-groups. Furthermore, investigations testing for mediation effects and for the causal nature of the links observed were undertaken to better understand the underlying mechanisms of the relationship between education and obesity.
09 Dec 2011
OECD Productivity Growth in the 2000s: A Descriptive Analysis of the Impact of Sectoral Effects and Innovation
This paper brings together the latest data and OECD productivity indicators in different areas with the aim of reviewing the main productivity trends over the past decade, comparing the United States, Europe and to some extent Japan. Concerning economy wide indicators of productivity, the slowdown appears to be due to a significant slowdown in investment in information and communication technologies (ICT) followed by a decrease in multi-factor productivity (MFP). However, a new set of indicators of MFP growth by industry shows that the decline of productivity is particularly marked in sectors such as construction and market services. Looking for possible explanations of the decline, a marked slowdown in innovation emerged as the most likely cause. It concludes that, if no new wave of innovation materialises, comparable in size to the one of the late 1990s (around notably the Internet), the OECD trend productivity growth is not likely to resume at its end-1990s level. Only a recovery in innovation itself could trigger a sustainable recovery in productivity in the major OECD countries.