Publications by Author: Aghion, Philippe

Aghion, Philippe. 2012. “Education and Military Rivalry.” The National Bureau of Economic Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Using data from the last 150 years in a small set of countries, and from the postwar period in a large set of countries, we show that large investments in state primary education systems tend to occur when countries face military rivals or threats from their neighbors. By contrast, we find that democratic transitions are negatively associated with education investments, while the presence of democratic political institutions magnifies the positive effect of military rivalries. These empirical results are robust to a number of statistical concerns and continue to hold when we instrument military rivalries with commodity prices or rivalries in a certain country’s immediate neighborhood. We also present historical case studies, as well as a simple model, that are consistent with the econometric evidence.
Aghion, Philippe, Yann Algan, and Pierre Cahuc. 2007. “Can Policy Influence Culture? Theory and Evidence from Looking at the Minimum Wage-Unionization Rate Trade-off”.Abstract

Can public policy a¤ect culture, such as beliefs and norms of cooperation? We investigate this question by evaluating how state regulation of minimum wage interacts with unionization behavior and social dialogue. International data shows a negative correlation between union density and the quality of labor relations on one hand, and state regulation of the minimum wage on the other hand. To explain this relation, we develop a model of learning of the quality of labor relations. State regulation crowds out the possibility for workers to experiment negotiation and learn about the true cooperative nature of participants in the labor market. This crowding out e¤ect can give rise to multiple equilibria: a "good" equilibrium characterized by strong beliefs in cooperation, leading to high union density and low state regulation; and a "bad" equilibrium, characterized by distrustful labor relations, low union density and strong state regulation of the minimum wage. We then use surveys on social attitudes and unionization behavior to document that minimum wage legislation and union density do a¤ect beliefs about the scope of cooperation in the labor market.

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Aghion, Philippe, Matias Braun, and Johannes Fedderke. 2007. “Competition and Productivity Growth in South Africa”.Abstract

Using three different panel data sets, we show: (i) that mark-ups are significantly higher in South African manufacturing industries than they are in corresponding industries worldwide; (ii) that competition policy (i.e a reduction of mark-ups) should have largely positive effects on productivity growth in South Africa.

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Aghion, Philippe, Philippe Askenazy, and Nicolas Berman. 2007. “Credit Constraints and the Cyclicality of R&D Investment: Evidence from France”.Abstract

We use a French firm-level panel data set over the period 1993-2004 to analyze the relationship between credit constraints and firms' R&D behavior over the business cycle. Our main results can be summarized as follows: (i) the share of R&D investment over total investment is countercyclical without credit constraints, but it becomes more procyclical as firms face tighter credit constraints; (ii) the result is magnified for firms in sectors that depend more heavily upon external finance; (iii) in more credit constrained firms, R&D investment share plummets during recessions but does not increase proportionally during upturns; (iv) average R&D investment and productivity growth are more negatively correlated with sales volatility in more credit constrained firms.


WCFIA Working Paper 07-04, August 2007

Aghion, Philippe, Thibault Fally, and Stefano Scarpetta. 2007. “Credit Constraints as a Barrier to the Entry and Post-Entry Growth of Firms”.Abstract

Advanced market economies are characterized by a continuous process of creative destruction. Market forces and technological developments play a major role in shaping this process, but institutional and policy settings also influence firms’ decision to enter, to expand if successful and to exit if competition becomes unbearable. In this paper, we focus on the effects of financial development on the entry of new firms and the expansion of successful new businesses. Drawing from harmonized firm-level data for 16 industrialized and emerging economies, we find that access to finance matters most for the entry of small firms and in sectors that are more dependent upon external finance. This finding is robust to controlling for other potential entry barriers (labor market regulations and entry regulations). On the other hand, financial development has either no effect or a negative effect on entry by large firms. Access to finance also helps new firms expand if successful. Both private credit and stock market capitalization are important for promoting entry and post entry growth of firms. Altogether, these results suggest that, despite significant progress over the past decade, many countries, including those in Continental Europe, should improve their financial markets so as to get the most out of creative destruction, by encouraging the entry of new (especially small) firms and the post-entry growth of successful young businesses.


WCFIA Working Paper 07-06, March 2007

Aghion, Philippe, Alberto Alesina, and Francesco Trebbi. 2007. “Democracy, Technology, and Growth”.Abstract

We explore the question of how political institutions and particularly democracy affect economic growth. Although empirical evidence of a positive effect of democracy on economic performance in the aggregate is weak, we provide evidence that democracy influences productivity growth in different sectors differently and that this differential effect may be one of the reasons of the ambiguity of the aggregate results. We provide evidence that political rights are conducive to growth in more advanced sectors of an economy, while they do not matter or have a negative effect on growth in sectors far away from the technological frontier. One channel of explanation goes through the beneficial effects of democracy and political rights on the freedom of entry in markets. Overall, democracies tend to have much lower entry barriers than autocracies, because political accountability reduces the protection of vested interests, and entry in turn is known to be generally more growth-enhancing in sectors that are closer to the technological frontier. We present empirical evidence that supports this entry explanation.


WCFIA Working Paper 07-05, May 2007

Aghion, Philippe, Pol Antràs, and Elhanan Helpman. 2007. “Negotiating free trade”.Abstract

We develop a dynamic bargaining model in which a leading country endogenously decides whether to sequentially negotiate free trade agreements with subsets of countries or engage in simultaneous multilateral bargaining with all countries at once. We show how the structure of coalition externalities shapes the choice between sequential and multilateral bargaining, and we identify circumstances in which the grand coalition is the equilibrium outcome, leading to worldwide free trade. A model of international trade is then used to illustrate equilibrium outcomes and how they depend on the structure of trade and protection. Global free trade is not achieved when the political-economy motive for protection is sufficiently large. Furthermore, the model generates both "building bloc" and "stumbling bloc" effects of preferential trade agreements. In particular, we describe an equilibrium in which global free trade is attained only when preferential trade agreements are permitted to form (a building bloc effect), and an equilibrium in which global free trade is attained only when preferential trade agreements are forbidden (a stumbling bloc effect). The analysis identifies conditions under which each of these outcomes emerges.

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Aghion, Philippe, Drew Fudenberg, and Richard Holden. 2007. “Subgame Perfect Implementation with Almost Perfect Information”.Abstract

The theory of incomplete contracts has been recently questioned using or extending the subgame perfect implementation approach of Moore and Repullo (1988). We consider the robustness of this mechanism to the introduction of small amounts of asymmetric information. Our main result is that the mechanism may not yield (even approximately) truthful revelation as the amount of asymmetric information goes to zero.

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Rogoff, Kenneth S, Philippe Aghion, Philippe Bacchetta, and Romain Ranciere. 2006. “Exchange Rate Volatility and Productivity Growth: The Role of Financial Development”.Abstract
This paper offers empirical evidence that real exchange rate volatility can have a significant impact on long-term rate of productivity growth, but the effect depends critically on a country’s level of financial development. For countries with relatively low levels of financial development, exchange rate volatility generally reduces growth, whereas for financially advanced countries, there is no significant effect. Our empirical analysis is based on an 83 country data set spanning the years 1960-2000; our results appear robust to time window, alternative measures of financial development and exchange rate volatility, and outliers. We also offer a simple monetary growth model in which real exchange rate uncertainty exacerbates the negative investment effects of domestic credit market constraints. Our approach delivers results that are in striking contrast to the vast existing empirical exchange rate literature, which largely finds the effects of exchange rate volatility on real activity to be relatively small and insignificant.
Also NBER Working Paper 12117.
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Aghion, Philippe, and Ioana Marinescu. 2006. “Cyclical Budgetary Policy and Economic Growth: What Do We Learn from OECD Panel”.Abstract

This paper uses yearly panel data on OECD countries to analyze the relationship between growth and the cyclicality of government debt. We develop new time-varying estimates of the cyclicality of public debt. Our main findings can be summarized as follows: (i) less procyclical public debt growth can have significantly positive effects on productivity growth, in particular when financial development is lower; (ii) public debt growth has become increasingly countercyclical in most OECD countries over the past twenty years, but this trend has been less pronounced in the EMU; (iii) less financially developed or more open economies display less countercyclical public debt growth.


WCFIA Working Paper 07-08, June 2006

Aghion, Philippe, Diego Comin, and Peter Howitt. 2006. “When Does Domestic Saving Matter for Economic Growth?”.Abstract

Can a country grow faster by saving more? We address this question both theoretically and empirically. In our model, growth results from innovations that allow local sectors to catch up with the frontier technology. In relatively poor countries, catching up with the frontier requires the involvement of a foreign investor, who is familiar with the frontier technology, together with effort on the part of a local bank, who can directly monitor local projects to which the technology must be adapted. In such a country, local saving matters for innovation, and therefore growth, because it allows the domestic bank to cofinance projects and thus to attract foreign investment. But in countries close to the frontier, local firms are familiar with the frontier technology, and therefore do not need to attract foreign investment to undertake an innovation project, so local saving does not matter for growth. In our empirical exploration we show that lagged savings is significantly associated with productivity growth for poor but not for rich countries. This effect operates entirely through TFP rather than through capital accumulation. Further, we show that savings is significantly associated with higher levels of FDI inflows and equipment imports and that the effect that these have on growth is significantly larger for poor countries than rich.


WCFIA Working Paper 07-07, August 2006

Aghion, Philippe, and Olivier Jean Blanchard. 1994. “On the Speed of Transition Central Europe”.Abstract

Transition in Central Europe is four years old. State firms which dominated the economy are struggling with market forces. A new private sector quickly emerged and has taken hold. Unemployment, which did not exist, is high and still increasing. Will this process of transition accelerate, or slow down? Will unemployment keep increasing? Can things go wrong and how? Our paper represents a first pass at answering those questions. The basic structure of the model we develop is standard, that of the transition from a low to a high productivity sector. But we pay attention to two aspects which strike us as important. The first is the interactions between unemployment and the decisions of both state and private firms. The second are the idiosyncracies which come from the central planning legacy, from the structure of control within state firms to the lack of many market institutions, which limits private sector growth. We start with a description of transition in Poland so far. We then develop a model and use it to think about the determinants of the speed of transition and the level of unemployment. Finally, we return to the role of policy and the future in Poland, as well as the causes of cross–Central European country variations.

Aghion, Philippe, and Gilles Saint-Paul. 1993. “Uncovering Some Causal Relationships between Productivity Growth and the Structure of Economic Fluctuations: A Tentative Survey”.Abstract

This paper discusses recent theoretcial and empirical work on the interactions between growth and business cycles. One may distinguish two very differenct types of approaches to the problem of the influence of macroeconomic fluctuations on long–run growth.