2019 NZIER Economics Award

NZIER had their annual NZIER Economics Award earlier in the week – or as we often call it NZ Economist of the Year.  The winner for 2019 was John McDermott, current Executive Director and Motu and former Chief Economist of the RBNZ.

John was an excellent choice for this award. He has contributed significantly to NZ and international literature, while influencing policy making in NZ – especially through the high pressure times of the Global Financial Crisis. Furthermore, while doing all this he has taken time to do some economics teaching in Wellington, helping to inspire future generations of students.

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Monopsony employers paying higher wages?!

As part of my job as a researcher I like to read about different topics – I have done work on health economics, labour economics, and more recently firm level economics.  One topic that comes up across all these fields is the idea of a monopsony buyer for different things.

Looking across this blog I’ve seen monopsony discussed in terms of the labour market and in terms of migration and monetary policy.  However, I want to focus on concentration indices (as a proxy for monopsony) and wages.

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Forward guidance and unconventional monetary policy in NZ?

Forward guidance and unconventional monetary policy

I recently noticed that swap rates purchases were discussed as an unconventional monetary policy tool are discussed in Reserve Bank’s bulletin “Aspects of implementing unconventional monetary policy in New Zealand”.

Namely, they state:

Purchasing interest rate swaps could be a way to signal that the Reserve

Bank expects to keep the OCR low for a prolonged period. Swap rates

comprise the expectations of future policy rates, the term risk premium,

and margin for bank credit risk.”

So why would we want to keep OCR persistently low in long-term? Let’s have a closer look at this.

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Migration and wages: A model that is wrong but useful

The link between migration and wages is complex and confusing – especially when it is often communicated about in different ways (eg are we talking about wage growth now with regards to monetary policy, wages in specific industries due to the changing make-up of the economy, or long-run real wages?).  And I can’t be much help here.

However, I think this is one place where carefully using the macroeconomic model taught in ECON101 can help us to think about the issues a little bit – especially if we are narrowing the question to only “what is the monetary policy consequences of changes in migration flows“.  Now this model is wrong, assumptions in it are wrong, the outcomes it describes aren’t forecasts – but it clearly articulates tendencies we observe following a change in economic circumstances which will hold in more realistic models, and clarifies assumptions that may make these tendencies false.  We have pointed at this before for monetary policy – but lets outline a bit more now.

It is a model for thinking about the potential consequences of something in a critical way – not something that we accept uncritically as truth.  To me this is pretty damned useful as a way to start thinking about something, so let’s do it!

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Are real wages lower than 40 years ago

While rolling around the internet I found the following:

Lets have a look shall we.

Interesting!  But something seems a bit off – surely this can’t be true!?  Let us investigate.

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Can we blame universities for inequality in educational attainment?

I can see where this article is coming from.  Inequality in educational attainment can translate into inequality in incomes.  If people from poor households have lower educational attainment then we have a generational link between low incomes, which implies lower income mobility.  This is something that we may find unjust.

Why do I say “may”, well this depends on the cause doesn’t it – why does this inequality exist.

Now I don’t disagree that educational attainment is associated with income inequality, and the narrowing of gaps in educational attainment has been associated with lower income inequality.  I also don’t disagree that, looking at a person in isolation, lower mobility can be associated with lower opportunity.

But I am from a low income area and I am not sure we can blame universities for the fact that they primarily have students from higher deciles.

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