Social media and mental health

Over the last two decades, the mental health of adolescents and young adults in many countries has worsened considerably. This column looks at the role that social media has played in this, focusing on Facebook. Using the gradual expansion of the website across US colleges as a natural experiment, the authors find that students were more likely to report that mental health issues negatively affected their academic performance after Facebook was introduced at their college, with evidence suggesting that the effects operated through unfavourable social comparison.

The impact of foreign sanctions on firm performance in Russia

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has provoked wide-ranging financial and economic sanctions from the US, Europe, and various other countries worldwide. This column assesses the economic effects of almost two decades of earlier sanctions on Russian firms to shed light on the impacts of this new wave of sanctions. Sanctions adversely affect firm performance in general, yet there is no clear impact on energy and oligarch-related firms.

The optimal inflation target: Views from 600 economists

A key question for any inflation-targeting framework is what the inflation target should be. This column reports findings from a survey of leading economists from around the world on the inflation target and related monetary policy issues. Overall, there was a strong preference for the status quo, with participants seeming to perceive high costs in terms of credibility from changing the current inflation target. However, participants concerned about the zero lower bound on the nominal interest rate were more likely to favour raising the target.

The end of the crypto-diversification myth

Since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, the correlation between cryptocurrency and equities went from low and negative to consistently high and positive. This column proposes a new mechanism to explain this new relationship. With investor-level holdings from a bank offering both trading accounts and cryptocurrency wallets, it shows that retail investors’ net trading volumes of stocks and cryptocurrencies are highly positively correlated. Theoretically, this micro-level pattern translates into a cross-asset class correlation.

The net foreign asset position of the US

The US net foreign asset position – measuring the difference between its foreign assets and liabilities – was negative, yet small, until 2007. This column shows that since then, it has deteriorated sharply to negative 65% of GDP, mostly as a result of changes in the market value of US-owned assets abroad and foreign-owned assets in the US. These valuation effects are explained by rising US equity values disproportionately benefitting foreign owners of US firms.

The global real interest rate

Global real rates are stuck at a low level, and until recently policy rates everywhere were effectively zero. Can we use historical data to explain why this happened, and to predict whether we will be back at the ZLB when inflation falls? Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas and Ricardo Reis talk to Tim Phillips.

The regional development trap in Europe

Many regions in Europe are stuck in a development trap and face significant structural challenges in retrieving past dynamism or improving prosperity for their residents. This column conceptualises what constitutes a development trap at a regional level in Europe and identifies which regions have been trapped or at risk of becoming trapped in recent years. Regional development traps can arise at many different levels of income. Springing these traps would improve overall European competitiveness and help quell the discontent and resentment of citizens living in these areas.


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