A Plurilateral “Single Data Area” Is the Solution to Canada’s Data Trilemma

September 2019

Susan A. Aaronson and Patrick Leblond

IIEP working paper 2020-8

Summary: With its relatively small population, Canada faces a challenge in terms of the amount of high-quality data that it can generate to support a successful data-driven economy. As a result, Canada needs to allow data to flow freely across its borders. However, it also has to provide a high-trust data environment if it wants individuals, firms and government to participate actively in such an economy. As such, Canada (and other countries) faces what can be called the data trilemma, whereby it is not possible to have simultaneously data that flows freely across borders, a high-trust data environment and a national data protection regime; one of these three objectives has to give so that only two are effectively possible at the same time.

To resolve the data trilemma, Canada should work with its key economic partners — namely the European Union, Japan and the United States — to develop a single data area that would be managed by an international data standards board. The envisioned single data area would allow for all types of personal and non-personal data to flow freely across borders while ensuring that individuals, consumers, workers, firms and governments are protected from potential harm arising from activities such as the collection, processing, use, storage or purchase/sale of data. If Canada and its economic partners share similar norms and standards for regulating data, then allowing data to flow freely across borders with these countries no longer risks undermining trust, which is crucial to a successful data-driven economy.

America’s uneven approach to AI and its consequences

April 2020

Susan A. Aaronson

IIEP working paper 2020-7

Introduction Excerpt: The world’s oceans are in trouble. Global warming is causing sea levels to rise and reducing the supply of food in the oceans. The ecological balance of the ocean has been disturbed by invasive species and cholera. Many pesticides and nutrients used in agriculture end up in the coastal waters, resulting in oxygen depletion that kills marine plants and shellfish. Meanwhile the supply of fish is declining due to overfishing. Yet to flourish, humankind requires healthy oceans; the oceans generate half of the oxygen we breathe, and, at any given moment, they contain more than 97% of the world’s water. Oceans provide at least a sixth of the animal protein people eat. Living oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce climate change impacts. Many civil society groups (NGOs) are trying to protect this shared resource. As example, OceanMind uses satellite data and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the movements of vessels and compare their activities to historical patterns. The NGO can thus identify damaging behavior such as overfishing

Data Governance, AI, and Trade: Asia as a Case Study

April 2020

Susan A. Aaronson

IIEP working paper 2020-6

Introduction Excerpt: The arc of history seems to be bending again towards the dynamic nations of Asia (Gordon: 2008). The countries and territories of the Asia Pacific region are both a locus for trade and a source of technology fueled growth. In 2017, Asia recorded the highest growth in merchandise trade volume in 2017 for both exports and imports (WTO: 2018, 32). UNCTAD reports that exports of digitally deliverable services increased substantially across all regions during the period 2005– 2018, with a compound annual growth rate ranging between 6 and 12 per cent (table III.1). Growth was the highest in developing countries, especially in Asia (UNCTAD: 2019, 66).

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already a leading source of growth for many Asian countries. The AI market in the Asia Pacific was estimated at around US $450 million in 2017 and is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 46.9% by 2022 (Ghasemi: 2018). Several analysts believe Asia’s AI growth will soon overtake the US (Lee: 2018; Ghasemi: 2018)

Data Is Dangerous: Comparing the Risks That the United States, Canada and Germany See in Data Troves

April 2020

Susan A. Aaronson

IIEP working paper 2020-5

Summary: Citizens of the United States, Canada and Germany know that the online world is simultaneously a wondrous and dangerous place. They have seen details about their activities, education, financial status and beliefs stolen, misused and manipulated. This paper attempts to examine why stores of personal data (data troves) held by private firms became a national security problem in the United States and compares the US response to that of Canada and Germany. Citizens in all three countries rely on many of the same data-driven services and give personal information to many of the same companies. German and Canadian policy makers and scholars have also warned of potential national security spillovers of large data troves. However, the three nations have defined and addressed the problem differently. US policy makers see a problem in the ownership and use of personal data (what and how) instead of in America’s own failure to adequately govern personal data. The United States has not adopted a strong national law for protecting personal data, although national security officials have repeatedly warned of the importance of doing so. Instead, the United States has banned certain apps and adopted investment reviews of foreign firms that want to acquire firms with large troves of personal data. Meanwhile, Canada and Germany see a different national security risk. They find the problem is where and how data is stored and processed. Canadian and German officials are determined to ensure that Canadian and German laws apply to Canadian and German personal and/or government data when it is stored on the cloud (often on US cloud service providers). The case studies illuminate a governance gap: personal data troves held by governments and firms can present a multitude of security risks. However, policy makers have put forward nationalistic solutions that do not reflect the global nature of the risk.

The Value of Reputation in Trade: Evidence from Alibaba

March 2020

Maggie X. Chen and Min Wu

IIEP working paper 2020-4

Abstract: We examine the role of an online reputation mechanism in international trade by exploring T-shirt exports on Alibaba. Exploiting rich transaction data and features of search and rating algorithms, we show that exporters displaying a superior reputation perform significantly better than peers with nearly identical true ratings and observables and the value of reputation rises with the level of information friction and the specificity of information. We develop a dynamic reputation model with heterogeneous cross-country information friction to quantify the effect of the reputation mechanism and find a 20-percent increase in aggregate exports fueled by a market reallocation towards superstars.

JEL Codes: F1, D8

Key Words: reputation, information, superstar, and Alibaba

Human Capital Accumulation at Work: Estimates for the World and Implications for Development

February 2020

Remi Jedwab, Asif Islam, Paul Romer, and Robert Samaniego

IIEP working paper 2020-3

Abstract: In this paper, we: (i) study wage-experience profiles and obtain measures of returns to potential work experience using data from about 24 million individuals in 1,084 household surveys and census samples across 145 countries; (ii) show that returns to work experience are strongly correlated with economic development – workers in developed countries appear to accumulate twice more human capital at work than workers in developing countries; and (iii) use a simple accounting framework to find that the contribution of work experience to human capital accumulation and economic development might be as important as the contribution of education itself.

JEL: O11; O12; O15; O47; E24; J11; J31

Keywords: Returns to Work Experience; Returns to Education; Human Capital Accumulation; Economic Development; Labor Markets; Development Accounting

The Financial Center Leverage Cycle: Does it Spread Around the World?

February 2020

Graciela Laura Kaminsky, Leandro Medina, Shiyi Wang

IIEP working paper 2020-2

Abstract: With a novel database, we examine the evolution of capital flows to the periphery since the collapse of the Bretton Woods System in the early 1970s. We decompose capital flows into global, regional, and idiosyncratic factors. In contrast to previous findings, which mostly use data from the 2000s, we find that booms and busts in capital flows are mainly explained by regional factors and not the global factor. We then ask, what drives these regional factors. Is it the leverage cycle in the financial center? What triggers the leverage cycle in the financial center? Is it a change in global investors’ risk appetite? Or, is it a change in the demand for capital in the periphery? We link leverage in the financial center to regional capital flows and the cost of borrowing in international capital markets to answer these questions. Our estimations indicate that regional capital flows are driven by supply shocks. Interestingly, we find that the leverage in the financial center has a time-varying behavior, with a movement away from lending to the emerging periphery in the 1970s to the 1990s towards lending to the advanced periphery in the 2000s.

Keywords: International Borrowing Cycles. Global and Regional Factors. Push and Pull Factors of Capital Flows. Financial Center Leverage Cycles.

JEL Codes: F30, F34, F65




Mismatch in Online Job Search

February 2020

Tara M. Sinclair and Martha E. Gimbel

IIEP working paper 2020-1

Abstract: Labor market mismatch is an important measure of the health of the economy but is notoriously hard to measure since it requires information on both employer needs and job seeker characteristics. In this paper we use data from a large online job search website which has detailed information on both sides of the labor market. Mismatch is measured as the dissimilarity between the distribution of job seekers across a set of predefined categories and the distribution of job vacancies across the same categories. We produce time series measures of mismatch for the US and a set of English-speaking countries from January of 2014 through December of 2019. We find that title-level mismatch is substantial, with about 33% of the labor force needing to change job titles for the US to have zero mismatch in 2019, but that it declined from 40% in 2014 as the labor market has tightened. Furthermore, over the same time period, the mix of job opportunities has shifted substantially, but in a way that has made the overall distribution of jobs more similar to the distribution of job seekers. We interpret this finding as evidence that mismatch between job seekers and employers eased due to jobs coming back in the slow recovery after the Great Recession.

JEL Codes: E24, J11, J21, J24, J40, J62

Keywords: Job search, vacancies, employment, unemployment

Numerological Preferences, Timing of Births and the Long-term Effect on Schooling

October 2019

Cheng Huang, Xiaojing Ma, Shiying Zhang, Qingguo Zhao

IIEP working paper 2019-16

Abstract: Cultural beliefs may affect demographic behaviors. According to traditional Chinese astrology, babies born on auspicious days will have good luck in their lifetime, whereas those born on inauspicious days will have bad luck. Using administrative data from birth certificates in Guangdong, China, we provide empirical evidence on the short-term effects of such numerological preferences. We find that approximately 3.9% extra births occur on auspicious days and 1.4% of births are avoided on inauspicious days. Additionally, there is a higher male/female sex ratio for births on auspicious days. Since such manipulation of the birthdate is typically performed through scheduled C-sections, C-section births increase significantly on auspicious days. Moreover, we use a second dataset to examine the long-term effect of numerological preferences and find that people born on auspicious days are more likely to attend college.

Keywords: Numerological preferences. Birthdate . Timed births. Chinese astrology

JEL: I21 . Z10 .J13 . D19

Search for Yield in Large International Corporate Bonds: Investor Behavior and Firm Responses

November 2019

Tomas Williams, Charles W. Calomiris, Mauricio Larrain, Sergio L. Schmukler

IIEP working paper 2019-15

Abstract: Emerging market corporations have significantly increased their borrowing in international markets since 2008. We show that this increase was driven by large denomination bond issuances, most of them with face value of exactly US$500 million. Large issuances are eligible for inclusion in important international market indexes. These bonds appeal to institutional investors because they are more liquid and facilitate targeting market benchmarks. We find that the rewards of issuing index-eligible bonds rose drastically after 2008. Emerging market firms were able to cut their cost of funds by more than 76 basis points by issuing bonds with a face value equal to or greater than US$500 million relative to smaller bonds. Firms contemplating whether to take advantage of this cost saving faced a tradeoff after 2008: they could benefit from the lower yields associated with large, indexeligible bonds, but they paid the potential cost of having to hoard low-yielding cash assets if their investment opportunities were less than US$500 million. Because of the post-2008 “size yield discount,” many companies issued index-eligible bonds, while substantially increasing their cash holdings. We present evidence suggesting that these post-2008 behaviors reflected a search for yield by institutional investors into higher-risk securities. These patterns are not apparent in the issuance of investment grade bonds by firms in developed economies.

JEL Classification Codes: F21, F23, F32, F36, F65, G11, G15, G31

Keywords: benchmark indexes, bond issuance, corporate financing, emerging markets,
institutional investors

Emerging Trade Battlefield with China: Export Competition and Firms’ Coping Strategies

October 2019

Yao Pan, Katariina Nilsson Hakkala

IIEP working paper 2019-14

Abstract: This paper analyzes how intensified Chinese export competition affects the exports and product ranges of Western firms. Using a novel identification strategy that exploits changes in Chinese export policies, we find that Chinese export competition reduces aggregate product level exports of Finland. Firm-level analysis using administrative data further shows that Chinese competition leads to substantial price cuts to retain market shares, especially for homogeneous products. In addition, we also discover that firms respond to the increased level of Chinese export competition by dropping their marginal products. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of export competition with China for developed countries.

Keywords: Trade Flows, Export Competition, Firm-level, Product Mix, China

JEL Classification: F14, F61, L25

Cities of Workers, Children or Seniors? Age Structure and Economic Growth in a Global Cross-Section of Cities

August 2019

Remi Jedwab, Daniel Pereira, and Mark Roberts

IIEP working paper 2019-13

Abstract: A large literature documents the positive influence of a city’s skill structure on its rate of economic growth. By contrast, the effect of a city’s age structure on its economic growth has been a hitherto largely neglected area of research. We hypothesize that cities with more working-age adults are likely to grow faster than cities with more children or seniors and set out the potential channels through which such differential growth may occur. Using data from a variety of historical and contemporary sources, we show that there exists marked variation in the age structure of the world’s largest cities, both across cities and over time. We then study how age structure affects economic growth for a global cross-section of mega-cities. Using various identification strategies, we find that mega-cities with higher dependency ratios – i.e. with more children and/or seniors per working-age adult – grow significantly slower. Such effects are particularly pronounced for cities with high shares of children. This result appears to be mainly driven by the direct negative effects of a higher dependency ratio on the size of the working-age population and the indirect effects on work hours and productivity for working age adults within a city.

JEL: R10; R11; R19; J11; J13; J14; O11; N30

Keywords: Urbanization; Cities; Age Structure; Dependency Ratios; Children; Ageing; Demographic Cycles; Agglomeration Effects; Human Capital; Growth; Development

Divorce among European and Mexican Immigrants in the U.S

August 2019

Barry Chiswick and Christina Houseworth

IIEP working paper 2019-12

Abstract: This paper analyzes the status of being currently divorced among European and Mexican immigrants in the U.S., among themselves and in comparison to the native born of the same ancestries. The data are for males and females age 18 to 55, who married only once, in the 2010-2014 American Community Surveys.

Among immigrants, better job opportunities, measured by educational attainment, English proficiency and a longer duration in the U.S. are associated with a higher probability of being divorced. Those who married prior to migration and who first married at an older age are less likely to be divorced. Those who live in states with a higher divorce rate are more likely to be divorced. Thus, currently being divorced among immigrants is more likely for those who are better positioned in the labor market, less closely connected to their ethnic origins, and among Mexican immigrants who live in an environment in which divorce is more prevalent.

Key Words: Marriage, Divorce, Minorities, Immigrants, Gender, Human Capital

JEL Codes: J12, J15, J16, J24

How Should We Measure City Size? Theory and Evidence Within and Across Rich and Poor Countries

August 2019

Remi Jedwab, Prakash Loungani, and Anthony Yezer

IIEP working paper 2019-11

Abstract: It is obvious that holding city population constant, differences in cities across the world are enormous. Urban giants in poor countries are not large using measures such as land area, interior space or value of output. These differences are easily reconciled mathematically as population is the product of land area, structure space per unit land (i.e., heights), and population per unit interior space (i.e., crowding). The first two are far larger in the cities of developed countries while the latter is larger for the cities of developing countries. In order to study sources of diversity among cities with similar population, we construct a version of the standard urban model (SUM) that yields the prediction that the elasticity of city size with respect to income could be similar within both developing countries and developed countries. However, differences in income and urban technology can explain the physical differences between the cities of developed countries and developing countries. Second, using a variety of newly merged data sets, the predictions of the SUM for similarities and differences of cities in developed and developing countries are tested. The findings suggest that population is a sufficient statistic to characterize city differences among cities within the same country, not across countries.

JEL Codes: R13; R14; R31; R41; R42; O18; O2; O33

Keywords: Urbanization; Cities; Urban Giants; Population; Standard Urban Model; Measurement; Urban Technology; Building Heights; Sprawl; Housing; Transportation

The Economics of Missionary Expansion: Evidence from Africa and Implications for Development

May 2019

Remi Jedwab, Felix Meier zu Selhausen, and Alexander Moradi

IIEP Working Paper 2019-10

Abstract: How did Christianity expand in sub-Saharan Africa to become the continent’s dominant religion? Using annual panel data on all Christian missions from 1751 to 1932 in Ghana, as well as cross-sectional data on missions for 43 sub-Saharan African countries in 1900 and 1924, we shed light on the spatial dynamics and determinants of this religious diffusion process. Missions expanded into healthier, safer, more accessible, and more developed areas, privileging these locations first. Results are confirmed for selected factors using various identification strategies. This pattern has implications for extensive literature using missions established during colonial times as a source of variation to study the long-term economic effects of religion, human capital and culture. Our results provide a less favorable account of the impact of Christian missions on modern African economic development. We also highlight the risks of omission and endogenous measurement error biases when using historical data and events for identification.

JEL Codes: N3, N37, N95, Z12, O12, O15

Keywords: Economics of Religion; Religious Diffusion; Path Dependence; Economic Development; Compression of History; Measurement; Christianity; Africa

Governance Spillovers of Labour Provisions in Free Trade Agreements

by Susan Ariel Aaronson (George Washington University)

IIEP Working Paper 2017-2

Most people know that governments such as the US, EU, and Canada use labour rights provisions in trade agreements to improve labour rights. They believe that policymakers in the developing world will be willing to improve labour rights governance with the incentive of the trade agreement. But in this paper, Aaronson argues that these provisions have broader and equally important spillover effects upon governance. These provisions:

  • empower workers and other citizens;
  • facilitate a feedback loop between the developing country government and its citizens on a broad range of issues affecting trade;
  • promote wage and income equality, which is conducive to development, social stability and democracy;
  • help policy-makers to better integrate labour rights with other public policies (such as fiscal policy, anti-corruption policies, or criminal laws); and
  • can help citizens and policy-makers gradually improve governance, increase productivity and advance social cohesion in the community.

Aaronson used a comparative case study approach, examining both the language and studies of the effects of the provisions. For example, she finds that since 2005, U.S. agreements have included provisions in the labour rights chapter related to procedural guarantees and public awareness. The provisions require parties to encourage public participation in the development of labour rights policies. They also require that all persons have “appropriate access to tribunals”, that the “proceedings are fair, equitable, and transparent … open to the public”, give all parties the right to seek review, and educate their public about the law. Taken in sum, these provisions could empower workers (on the demand side of labour rights) through rules on public awareness, public participation, and due process rights. The EU and Canada have begun to adopt similar policies.

Aaronson provides several examples of improved governance. In Guatemala, policymakers learned to coordinate labour rights and fiscal policy so that companies could not get subsidies or avoid taxes if they were found to violate labor rights. Mexican officials learned to protect the rights of Mexican guest workers in the U.S. In 2013, with help from U.S. and Mexican civil society groups, guest workers came together to form the Sinaloa Temporary Workers’ Coalition to defend the rights of guest workers in Mexico and abroad. In 2014, the group complained to the Mexican Ministry of Labor regarding recruitment fees. The Ministry investigated and found 27 violations of the law, resulting in fines. In this example, Mexicans held their government accountable for violations of the law at home.

Aaronson notes that no one has yet done a study as to whether these provisions and consultative bodies actually empower workers. Nonetheless, in a 2016 study of trade and labour rights, the ILO noted that “the impact of labor provisions depends crucially on, first, the extent to which they involve stakeholders, notably social partners such as unions and NGOs.” Workers who are aware of their rights and able to challenge executives and government officials’ decisions are empowered. Over time, empowered workers can promote greater income equality through improved productivity and better share in profits through wage increases. Some analysts argue that this process can advance development, social cohesion and democracy, and can ensure that more people meet their potential. Moreover, these provisions may help to legitimize trade agreements and help them to gain a base of public support.

Redefining Protectionism: The New Challenge in the Digital Age

by Susan Ariel Aaronson (George Washington University)

IIEP Working Paper 2016-30

Twenty-first century protectionism is a slippery concept. With the introduction of digital trade, it is important for scholars and policymakers to rethink how they define, measure, and address protectionism. This is most clear in the United States where attitudes towards digital trade and digital protectionism have been murky at best.

While the digital is important to all countries, it is particularly important to the United States, where digital trade represents nearly 55 percent of U.S. service exports and has generated an annual trade surplus of over $150 billion. In a principal effort to limit digital protectionism and maintain an open internet for the advancement of the free flow of information, the United States made the move to create binding rules to govern trade in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and was the first country to call out digital protectionism in other nations. Policymakers now understand that information, whether it is created or altered within their county, is an asset. Therefore, measures that restrict content, limit the flow of data, or impose standards that keep out foreign competition could threaten the generativity of the internet as a whole.

However, many governments disagree with the scope and breadth of U.S. claims about digital protectionism. For example, Canadian and Australian policymakers are determined to protect the privacy of their citizens’ health records and require such information to be stored on local servers to an extent that tends to outpace U.S. standards. Adding to the confusion, U.S. arguments against digital protectionism are often inconsistent. For example, in a 2013 report on foreign trade barriers, U.S. officials complained about Japan’s uneven, and Vietnam’s unclear, approach to consumer privacy. At the same time, the United States has argued that China’s failure to enforce its privacy laws is harmful to digital trade.

Despite the importance of digital trade and digital protectionism, the United States has not thought out its stance on questions like: Is a policy truly protectionist? How harmful are these policies to U.S. interests? Are trade sanctions an appropriate response, and which agency should be responsible for making these decisions? As digital trade takes up a bigger portion of the global economy, policymakers and companies will need clarity. Given the stakes, it is important that the United States takes a leading role in defining digital protectionism.

Negative Shocks and Mass Persecutions: Evidence from the Black Death

March 2017

by Remi Jedwab (George Washington University), Mark Koyama (George Mason University) & Noel Johnson (George Mason University)

IIEP Working Paper 2017-4

The authors of this paper examine the Black Death persecutions committed against the Jewish people to demonstrate the factors that determine when a minority group will face persecution. A theoretical framework is developed that predicts that there is an increased probability that minorities are scapegoated and persecuted when negative shocks occur. However, if the shocks become more severe, the probability of persecution may decrease when economic complementarities exist between the majority and minority groups. To accomplish this, the authors gathered data on a city-level on Black Death mortality and Jewish persecution. An aggregate level showed that scapegoating led to an increase in the baseline probability of persecution. On the city-level, high plague mortality rates did not align with increased persecutions. Persecutions were found to be more likely in cities with a history of antisemitism and less likely in locations where Jews were featured in important economic roles.

The Black Death had wide-ranging social effects, and historians and economists often look to the Black Death as a direct cause of scapegoating and persecution of Jewish communities. The authors contradict this view using city-level Black Death mortality rates and Jewish persecution, demonstrating that the higher the mortality in a city, the less likely persecution would occur. This was accentuated in cities where Jews played important economic roles. They show that, while the Black Death shock was the initial impetus for antisemitic persecution in Europe, it was mainly patterns of differences in economic standing between minority and majority groups that explain local variation in persecution.

Their work contributes to several literatures, such as recent work on the economics of mass killings. They also add to literature on the relationship between shocks and the persecution of minorities, which emphasizes the role played by economic complementarities between groups, and literature on antisemitism. Their study provides a unique perspective, as well, as the Black Death provides a very well suited setting to examine the causes of mass killings.

In their framework, negative shocks can increase both the incentive to persecute a minority and to raise that minority’s economic value. The authors conclude that the decision to persecute the minority is dependent upon how the intensity of the shock interacts with the benefit one gains from persecution and the economic benefits gained from the presence of the minority. While their research suggested there are underlying biases against minorities, it also demonstrated that complementary economic activities between minority groups and majority groups could reduce inter-group aggression.

How Sustainable Are Benefits from Extension for Smallholder Farmers? Evidence from a Randomised Phase-Out of the BRAC Program in Uganda

January 2017

by Stephen C. Smith (George Washington University), Vida Bobić (George Washington University), Ram Fishman (Tel Aviv University), & Munshi Sulaiman (Save the Children)

IIEP Working Paper 2017-1

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