Jane Austen’s income: insights from the Bank of England archives

John Avery Jones

This guest post is the first of an occasional series of guest posts by external researchers who have used the Bank of England’s archives for their work on subjects outside traditional central banking topics.

How much did Jane Austen earn from her writing in her lifetime? The answer helps us gauge her standard of living and how her income compared to other contemporary authors. The problem is that we know what she invested her earnings in, but not what she paid for that investment. Using data from the Bank of England Archive, I estimate how much she paid, and can then back out an estimate of her income. Based on this work, I calculate that her income from Mansfield Park was a fairly modest £310 (about £22,000 at today’s prices), substantially less for example than the £2,100 earned by Maria Edgeworth for Patronage which is probably not read now outside English literature departments.

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Currency will be no longer determined by those in power

Estelle McCool

Estelle McCool, from King’s College London Maths School, is the winner of the second Bank of England/Financial Times schools blog competition. The competition invited students across the UK to address the question “What is the future of money?”

Our world today is dominated by globalisation. We’ve been trading globally since before the Vikings left Scandinavia, yet the face of world trade has been altered by technological revolution and the removal of economic barriers. A global currency seems the next logical step in international integration. But what would provide the prototype of this new money?

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A nearly worthless currency ignites imaginations

Sofia Comper-Cavanna

Sofia Comper-Cavanna, from Burgess Hill Girls School, is a runner-up of the second Bank of England/Financial Times schools blog competition. The competition invited students across the UK to address the question “What is the future of money?”

The Venezuelan bolívar is practically worthless. When money has become so far devalued that the quantity of paper notes used to purchase toilet rolls is more than the quantity of paper you buy, is there any way for society to find a purpose for money again?

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The problem with cashless societies

Utkarsh Dandanayak

Utkarsh Dandanayak, from Royal Grammar School, Guildford, is a runner-up of the second Bank of England/Financial Times schools blog competition. The competition invited students across the UK to address the question “What is the future of money?”

No one likes parting ways with hard-earned cash. As consumers, this behavioural trait of ours allows us to think twice before engaging in transactions that we may later regret. However, now there is a chance that this trait will be lost, with the introduction of Mastercard, Apple Pay and the like, which digitalise payment processes to provide transactional convenience. What is often forgotten is the subtle but potent side effect — financial abstraction — the fundamental problem with a cashless society.

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How lab-grown burgers could feed the world

Tyler Curtis

Tyler Curtis, from Hall Cross Academy, Doncaster is the winner of the Bank of England/Financial Times schools blogging competition. In his winning post, he looks at how artificial meat could reshape the economy and our environment…

Food, glorious food! But how glorious is it, especially meat, when its production is reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Traditionally, a significant portion of the world’s workforce has been employed in agriculture throughout history, forcing us to allocate massive amounts of scarce resources to the sector. Today, nearly 27 per cent of people work in agriculture worldwide, according to the World Bank (the figure is just 1 per cent in the UK). However, the industry is on the verge of a new revolution.

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Facebook bank anyone?

Nicola Medicoff

Nicola Medicoff from St Paul’s Girls School, Hammersmith is the runner up in the Bank of England/Financial Times schools blogging competition. In her post, she looks at how fintech might reshape the banking industry…

Six years after setting up shop in London, ride-hailing app Uber has a fleet of 40,000 drivers doing battle with Black cabs, upsetting an industry that has seen little change since Hackney carriages started in the 1650s. Banks are bracing themselves for a similar assault, in their case from small fintech start-ups and large technology groups. Are the banks’ fears justified?

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Global real interest rates since 1311: Renaissance roots and rapid reversals

Paul Schmelzing

Paul Schmelzing is a visiting scholar at the Bank from Harvard University, where he concentrates on 20th century financial history. In this guest post, he looks at how global real interest rates have evolved over the past 700 years.

With core inflation rates remaining low in many advanced economies, proponents of the “secular stagnation” narrative –that markets are trapped in a period of permanently lower equilibrium real rates- have recently doubled down on their pessimistic outlook. Building on an earlier post on nominal rates this post takes a much longer-term view on real rates using a dataset going back over the past 7 centuries, and finds evidence that the trend decline in real rates since the 1980s fits into a pattern of a much deeper trend stretching back 5 centuries. Looking at cyclical dynamics, however, the evidence from eight previous “real rate depressions” is that turnarounds from such environments, when they occur, have typically been both quick and sizeable.

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Venetians, Volcker and Value-at-Risk: 8 centuries of bond market reversals

Paul Schmelzing, Harvard University.

bu-guest-post2Paul Schmelzing is a visiting scholar at the Bank from Harvard University, where he concentrates on 20th century financial history. In this guest post, he looks at the current bond market through the lens of nearly 800 years of economic history.

The economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk once opined that “the cultural level of a nation is mirrored by its interest rate: the higher a people’s intelligence and moral strength, the lower the rate of interest”. But as rates reached their lowest level ever in 2016, investors rather worried about the “biggest bond market bubble in history” coming to a violent end. The sharp sell-off in global bonds following the US election seems to confirm their fears. Looking back over eight centuries of data, I find that the 2016 bull market was indeed one of the largest ever recorded. History suggests this reversal will be driven by inflation fundamentals, and leave investors worse off than the 1994 “bond massacre”.

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Macroprudential Regulation: Two birds with one stone?

Roy Zilberman and William Tayler.

bu-guest-post2Last year the Bank organised a research competition to coincide with the launch of the One Bank Research Agenda.  In this guest post, the authors of the winning paper in that competition, Roy Zilberman and William Tayler from Lancaster Business School, summarise their work on optimal macroprudential policy.

Can macroprudential regulation go beyond its remit of financial stability and also contain inflation and output fluctuations? We think it can and argue that macroprudential regulation, in the form of countercyclical bank capital requirements, is a superior instrument to both conventional and financially-augmented Taylor (1993) monetary policy rules. This is especially true in responding to financial shocks that drive output and inflation in opposite directions, as also observed at the start of the recent financial crisis (see Gilchrist, Schoenle, Sim and Zakrajsek (2016)). This helps to effectively shield the real economy without the need for a monetary policy interest rate intervention. Put differently, a well-designed simple and implementable bank capital rule can achieve optimal policy associated with zero welfare losses.

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Balancing bias and variance in the design of behavioral studies: The importance of careful measurement in randomized experiments

Andrew Gelman.
bu-guest-post2

The Centre for Central Banking Studies recently hosted their annual Chief Economists Workshop, whose theme was “What can policymakers learn from other disciplines”.  In this guest post, one of the keynote speakers at the event, Andrew Gelman professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, points out some of the pitfalls of randomly assigned experiments with control groups.

When studying the effects of interventions on individual behavior, the experimental research template is typically:  Gather a bunch of people who are willing to participate in an experiment, randomly divide them into two groups, assign one treatment to group A and the other to group B, then measure the outcomes.  If you want to increase precision, do a pre-test measurement on everyone and use that as a control variable in your regression.  But in this post I argue for an alternative approach- study individual subjects using repeated measures of performance, with each one serving as their own control.

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