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What Have Two Decades of British Economic Reform Delivered?

In: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000

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  • David Card
  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

Beginning in 1979 with the newly electted Thatcher Government and continuing under successive Conservative and Labour Governments, the United Kingdom has embarked on a two-decade-long experiment in economic reform. We present evidence that the reform process has succeeded in making the UK more market-friendly than its European competitors. In fact, by the 1990s Britain ranked near the top of the league tables for freedom of markets, in some cases even ahead of the United States. To evaluate the effects of these reforms we compare trends in macroeconomic outcomes in the UK relative to the US, Germany, and France. During the 1980s and 1990s Britain halted the relative declines in GDP per capita and labour productivity that had characterized earlier decades, and partially closed the gap in income per capita with France and Germany. These gains were mainly attributable to relative rises in employment and hours. Unlike its EU competitors, Britain was able to achieve high employment-population rates with rising real wages for workers. The case that the change in economic performance can be credited to market-oriented reforms is harder to prove. Nevertheless, based on our own macro-level analyses, and micro-level evidence from several companion studies, we conclude that economic reforms contributed to halting the nearly century-long trend in relative economic decline of the UK relative to its historic competitors, Germany and France.
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Suggested Citation

  • David Card & Richard B. Freeman, 2004. "What Have Two Decades of British Economic Reform Delivered?," NBER Chapters,in: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000, pages 9-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6744
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    Cited by:

    1. Susanto Basu & John G. Fernald & Nicholas Oulton & Sylaja Srinivasan, 2003. "The case of the missing productivity growth: or, does information technology explain why productivity accelerated in the United States but not the United Kingdom?," Working Paper Series WP-03-08, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    2. A. Bergeaud & G. Cette & R. Lecat, 2015. "GDP per capita in advanced countries over the 20th century," Working papers 549, Banque de France.
    3. Blanden, Jo & Machin, Stephen & Van Reenen, John, 2005. "New survey evidence on recent changes in UK union recognition," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 768, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Kym Anderson & Peter Lloyd & Donald Maclaren, 2007. "Distortions to Agricultural Incentives in Australia Since World War II," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(263), pages 461-482, December.
    5. Antonin Bergeaud & Gilbert Cette & Rémy Lecat, 2014. "Le produit intérieur brut par habitant sur longue période en France et dans les pays avancés : le rôle de la productivité et de l’emploi," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 474(1), pages 5-34.
    6. Fabio Schiantarelli, 2005. "Product Market Regulation and Macroeconomic Performance: A Review of Cross Country Evidence," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 623, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 04 Aug 2008.
    7. Nauro F. Campos & Armando Castellar Pinheiro & Fabio Giambiagi & Maur??cio M. Moreira, 2002. "Does it Take a Lula to go to Davos? A Brief Overview of Brazilian Reforms, 1980-2000," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-580, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    8. Susanto Basu & John G. Fernald & Nicholas Oulton & Sylaja Srinivasan, 2003. "The Case of the Missing Productivity Growth: Or, Does Information Technology Explain why Productivity Accelerated in the US but not the UK?," NBER Working Papers 10010, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Mary Gregory & Giovanni Russo, 2004. "The Employment Impact of Differences in Dmand and Production," DEMPATEM Working Papers wp10, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    10. Bergeaud, A. & Cette, G. & Lecat, R., 2015. "Productivity trends from 1890 to 2012 in advanced countries," Rue de la Banque, Banque de France, issue 07, June..
    11. Addison, John T. & Siebert, W. Stanley, 2002. "Changes in Collective Bargaining in the U.K," IZA Discussion Papers 562, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Schwerdt, Guido & Turunen, Jarkko, 2010. "Labor quality growth in Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(3), pages 280-282, September.
    13. Karl Aiginger, 2003. "A Three Tier Strategy for Successful European Countries in the Nineties," WIFO Working Papers 205, WIFO.
    14. Gilbert Cette & Yusuf Kocoglu & Jacques Mairesse, 2009. "Productivity Growth and Levels in France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States in the Twentieth Century," NBER Working Papers 15577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Nauro F Campos & Fabrizio Coricelli, 2017. "EU Membership, Mrs Thatcher’s Reforms and Britain’s Economic Decline," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 59(2), pages 169-193, June.
    16. Charlotta Groth & Soledad Nuñez & Sylaja Srinivasan, 2006. "Productivity growth, adjustment costs and variable factor utilisation: the UK case," Bank of England working papers 295, Bank of England.
    17. Garratt, Anthony & Koop, Gary & Mise, Emi & Vahey, Shaun P., 2009. "Real-Time Prediction With U.K. Monetary Aggregates in the Presence of Model Uncertainty," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 27(4), pages 480-491.
    18. Loayza, Norman V. & Oviedo, Ana Maria & Serven, Luis, 2005. "Regulation and macroeconomic performance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3469, The World Bank.
    19. Willman, Paul & Bryson, Alex, 2007. "Union organization in Great Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19762, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    20. Venetia Bell & Pablo Burriel-Llombart & Jerry Jones, 2005. "A quality-adjusted labour input series for the United Kingdom (1975-2002)," Bank of England working papers 280, Bank of England.
    21. Alan Hughes & Michael S Scott Morton, 2005. "ICT and productivity growth - the paradox resolved?," Working Papers wp316, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.

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