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Measuring well-being and sustainability: A special issue of the Revue de l’OFCE

By Eloi Laurent

This issue of the Revue de l’OFCE (no. 145, February 2016) presents some of the best works that are being produced at a rapid clip on indicators of well-being and sustainability.

Why want to measure well-being? Because the idea that economic growth represents human development, in the sense that growth represents a good summary of its various dimensions, is simply false. GDP growth is not a prerequisite for human development; on the contrary, it is now often an impediment (as is illustrated by the exorbitant health costs of air pollution in India and China, two countries that concentrate one-third of the human population). suite…»

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The secular stagnation equilibrium

By Gilles Le Garrec et Vincent Touzé

The economic state of slow growth and underemployment, coupled with low inflation or even deflation, has recently been widely discussed, in particular by Larry Summers, under the label of “secular stagnation”. The hypothesis of secular stagnation was expressed for the first time in 1938 in a speech by A. Hansen, which was finally published in 1939. Hansen was worried about insufficient investment and a declining population in the United States, following a long period of strong economic and demographic growth. suite…»

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How do French people look at equality of opportunity?

By Michel Forsé (CNRS) and Maxime Parodi

Do the French people believe in equal opportunity? The Dynegal survey asked the question in 2013 to a representative sample of 4,000 individuals, whose responses were very mixed. In a recent article in the Revue de l’OFCE (no. 146, 2016 [in French]), we show that it is the middle classes who prove to be a little more convinced than others by the idea that schooling gives everyone a chance and that one’s success in life does not depend on social origin. This result is in line with the thesis by Simmel that makes the middle-class the site of social mobility. suite…»

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2015: An eighth year of rising unemployment in France

Department of Analysis and Forecasting (France Team)

Since June 2015, the number of job seekers at the end of the month (the number of “DEFM”, in French) in Category A registered with PĂ´le Emploi has swung from month to month, rising and falling. This high volatility, which reflects a sluggish labour market in which there is insufficient job creation to make a long-term reduction in unemployment, is directly related to the sluggish growth in the French economy overall. So after a relatively favourable November 2015 (15,000 DEFM fewer in category A), December once again saw an increase in the number of unemployed (+15,800), offsetting the previous month’s fall. In addition, for the first time since May 2015, all age groups experienced an increase in the number of category A DEFM in December. suite…»

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Intergenerational inequality in four large EU countries: Does one model fit all?

Francesco Vona

The extent to which social mobility differ across countries is subject of much debate in political and academic circles. The two poles of the relatively egalitarian Scandinavian countries and the relatively unequal Anglo-Saxon ones have been taken as key examples to corroborate a simple human capital-based explanation of cross-country differences in social mobility. In fact, stark differences in educational systems (e.g. private vs. public financing) and returns to skills well account for the gap in social mobility between Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon countries. However, in a recent paper using comparable individual data for these four countries (i.e. EUSILC), I show that this explanation does not suffice in accounting for differences in social mobility across the four largest EU economies: Germany, France, Italy and Spain.[1]   suite…»

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The American dream (finally) proven?

By Maxime Parodi

In a recently published short article, Thomas Hirsch and Mark Rank (2015) give us some astonishing figures about American society – numbers that, taken seriously, would lead to a significantly more nuanced view of income inequality in the United States. Indeed, their study suggests that American society is much more fluid than we think. While Americans undoubtedly live in a very unequal society, most of them would experience wealth at some point in their lifetimes. There is, in reality, a high turnover between rich and poor, which would explain why Americans are not very critical of inequality.

According to this study, during their working lives (age 25 to 60), 69.8% of Americans have enjoyed at least one year of household income sufficient to be included among the richest 20%. And 53.1% of Americans have made it – for at least one year – into the richest 10%. An even more exclusive 11.1% of Americans have spent at least one year in the illustrious club of the wealthiest 1%. suite…»

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What strategy for internally rebalancing the euro zone?

By Sébastien Villemot and Bruno Ducoudré

The euro zone has made significant efforts to reduce its trade imbalances since the outbreak of the financial crisis. In 2009, only Germany, the Netherlands and Austria had a current account surplus, while all the other countries, in particular France, Italy and Spain, ran current account deficits, resulting in a deficit for the zone as a whole (-0.7% of GDP). Five years later, in 2014, the situation had changed radically. The euro zone had a large current account surplus –3.4% of GDP – with almost all the countries running a surplus (figure). suite…»

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From the suburbs of London to global conflagration: a brief history of emissions

By Aurélien Saussay

A new interactive map of global CO2 emissions from 1750 to 2010 is helpful in understanding the historical responsibilities of the world’s different regions for the climate crisis.

The 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) ended on 12 December 2015 with a historic agreement. As 195 countries come to an accord on the need to limit global warming to 2 degrees by the end of the century, it is a good time to review the history of CO2 emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Right to the end of the negotiations, the question of the historical responsibility of the different countries has remained one of the main obstacles blocking the path to a global climate agreement. The recently industrialized emerging countries and the developing countries that are just beginning their economic take-off rightly refuse to provide efforts comparable to those of the developed countries. suite…»

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After the Paris Agreement – Putting an end to climate inconsistency

By Eloi Laurent

If the contents of the 32-page Paris Agreement (and the related decisions) adopted on 12 December 2015 by COP 21 had to be summarized in a single phrase, we could say that never have the ambitions been so high but the constraints so low. This is the basic trade-off in the text, and this was undoubtedly the condition for its adoption by all the world’s countries. The expectation had been that the aim in Paris was to extend to the emerging markets, starting with China and India, the binding commitments agreed in Kyoto eighteen years ago by the developed countries. What took place was exactly the opposite: under the leadership of the US government, which dominated this round of negotiations from start to finish right to the last minute (and where the EU was sorely absent), every country is now effectively out of Annex 1 of the Kyoto Protocol. They are released from any legal constraints on the nature of their commitments in the fight against climate change, which now amount to voluntary contributions that countries determine on their own and without reference to a common goal. suite…»

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Our house is on fire and we are only watching Paris

By Paul Malliet

As the 21st Conference of the Parties, COP21, began last week, all eyes were on Paris in the expectation of an ambitious global agreement that would limit the increase in global average temperature to 2°C and lead countries to begin swiftly to decarbonize their economies. But there is another battle taking place right now that is being ignored, even though it could have catastrophic consequences.

The primary forests and peatlands of Indonesia, located mainly on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan (and considered one of the Earth’s three green lungs), have been ravaged by fire for months as a result of an unexpectedly long dry season, which was in turn fueled by an extremely large-scale El Niño phenomenon[1], but also and above all by the continuation of slash and burn practices, which, though illegal, are intended to deforest the land needed to expand the cultivation of palm oil. suite…»

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