Economic Complexity

2016
O'Clery, N., Gomez-Lievano, A. & Lora, E., 2016. The Path to Labor Formality: Urban Agglomeration and the Emergence of Complex Industries.Abstract

Labor informality, associated with low productivity and lack of access to social security services, dogs developing countries around the world. Rates of labor (in)formality, however, vary widely within countries. This paper presents a new stylized fact, namely the systematic positive relationship between the rate of labor formality and the working age population in cities. We hypothesize that this phenomenon occurs through the emergence of complex economic activities: as cities become larger, labor is allocated into increasingly complex industries as firms combine complementary capabilities derived from a more diverse pool of workers. Using data from Colombia, we use a network-based model to show that the technological proximity (derived from worker transitions between industry pairs) of current industries in a city to potential new complex industries governs the growth of the formal sector in the city. The mechanism proposed has robust strong predictive power, and fares better than alternative explanations of (in)formality.

rfwp_78.pdf
O'Clery, N. & Lora, E., 2016. City Size, Distance and Formal Employment.Abstract

Cities thrive through the diversity of their occupants because the availability of complementary skills enables firms in the formal sector to grow, delivering increasingly sophisticated products and services. The appearance of new industries is path dependent in that new economic activities build on existing strengths, leading cities to both diversify and specialize in distinct areas. Hence, the location of necessary capabilities, and in particular the distance between firms and people with the skills they need, is key to the success of urban agglomerations. Using data for Colombia, this paper assesses the extent to which cities benefit from skills and capabilities available in their surrounding catchment areas. Without assuming a prioria a definition for cities, we sequentially agglomerate the 96 urban municipalities larger than 50,000 people based on commuting time. We show that a level of agglomeration equivalent to between 45 and 75 minutes of commuting time, corresponding to between 62 and 43 cities, maximizes the impact that the availability of skills has on the ability of agglomerations to generate formal employment. Smaller urban municipalities stand to gain more in the process of agglomeration. A range of policy implications are discussed.

citysize_rfwp77.pdf
Explaining the prevalence, scaling and variance of urban phenomena
Gomez-Lievano, A., Patterson-Lomba, O. & Hausmann, R., 2016. Explaining the prevalence, scaling and variance of urban phenomena. Nature Human Behavior. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The prevalence of many urban phenomena changes systematically with population size1 . We propose a theory that unifies models of economic complexity2,3 and cultural evolution4 to derive urban scaling. The theory accounts for the difference in scaling exponents and average prevalence across phenomena, as well as the difference in the variance within phenomena across cities of similar size. The central ideas are that a number of necessary complementary factors must be simultaneously present for a phenomenon to occur, and that the diversity of factors is logarithmically related to population size. The model reveals that phenomena that require more factors will be less prevalent, scale more superlinearly and show larger variance across cities of similar size. The theory applies to data on education, employment, innovation, disease and crime, and it entails the ability to predict the prevalence of a phenomenon across cities, given information about the prevalence in a single city.

Hausmann, R., Morales, J.R. & Santos, M.A., 2016. Panama beyond the Canal: Using Technological Proximities to Identify Opportunities for Productive Diversification.Abstract

The economy of Panama has thrived for more than a decade, based on a modern service sector on the activities surrounding the Canal. Panama has inserted its economy into global value chains, providing competitive services in logistics, ship handling, financial intermediation, insurance, communication and trade. The expansion of the modern service sector required significant non-residential construction, including office buildings, commercial outlets, warehouses, and even shopping malls. Large public infrastructure projects such as the expansion of the Canal, the Metro, and Tocumen airport, have provided an additional drive and paved the road for productive diversification. But productive diversification does not spread randomly. A country diversifies towards activities that demand similar capacities than the ones already in place. Current capabilities and know-how can be recombined and redeployed into new, adjacent activities, of higher value added.

This report identifies productive capabilities already in place in Panama, as signaled by the variety and ubiquity of products and services that is already able to manufacture and provide competitively. Once there, we move on to identifying opportunities for productive diversification based on technological proximity. As a result, we provide a roadmap for potential diversification opportunities both at the national and sub-national level.

panama_complexity_wp_324.pdf
Guerra, A., 2016. More Goals, More Growth? A Take on the Mexican Sports Economy through the Economic Complexity Framework.Abstract

In order to appropriately understand the sports sector, its magnitude, embeddedness in the economy, and strategic value, it is necessary to develop a framework through which to study it. Having a standardized and comprehensive methodology to analyze the sports sector will allow policymakers, academics, and other stakeholders to look at the sports sector at a new level of detail and rigor.

Previous work has outlined the numerous data quality and aggregation challenges currently present in the sports economy literature (Russell, Barrios & Andrews 2016). In light of these challenges, this paper attempts to build on the suggested categorization of the sports industry and develop a sound strategy to analyze the sector through an empirical exercise in a specific context: the Mexican Economy.

To this end, we first attempt to understand how connected the sports sector is to other activities in the economy and identify which sectors share similar know-how with m1. Additionally, we attempt to determine the relative magnitude of the sports sector through variables such as value added and employment.

Similarly, we consider study the spatial considerations around sports related economic activities at a subnational level. The advancement of spatial economics has allowed us to understand a new dimension of how an economic sector can develop and how characteristics inherent to a given geography can play a role in determining why some activities end up appearing and developing in the places they do.

Lastly, some descriptive and regression analysis efforts in this paper enabled us to better understand and characterize the sports sector. Such exercises allow us to learn what type of workers typically comprises the sports sector, and whether such profile is different across the different categories of sports activities. Among the variables analyzed I the descriptive exercise, we can look at education level and wages–among others–of those who work on this sector, and compare them to the overall employed population.

This paper is structured as follows: Section 1 will make the case for how publicly available data in Mexico meets the level of detail required for this type of study. Section 2 will look at the way in which the sports sector is nested in the overall economy. Section 3 studies the magnitude of the sports sector through different metrics. Section 4 looks at the type of jobs that comprise the sports sector. Section 5 looks at the differences in intensity of sports activities and early work on its potential causal roots. Section 6 provides some conclusions.

rfwp73.pdf
Bahar, D. & Santos, M.A., 2016. Natural Resources and Export Concentration: On the Most Likely Casualties of Dutch Disease.Abstract

The literature on Dutch disease is extensive when it comes to documenting the negative impacts of natural resource exports on non-resource tradable goods as an aggregate. Little has been said on the impact of natural resources on non-resource export concentration, either from a broad perspective or at the product level.

We explore this relationship using a variety of non-resource export concentration indexes for the period 1985 - 2010. We find significant evidence indicating that countries with high share of natural resources in exports tend to have less diversified non-resource export baskets.

Furthermore, using highly disaggregated data at the product level we study what type of products are more likely to thrive or suffer in resource rich countries. We find that capital intensive goods tend to have larger shares on the non-resource export basket when natural resources are high.

We also find that homogeneous goods make for a larger share of the non-resource export basket the lower their technological sophistication. For differentiated goods the pattern is reversed: they tend to make for a larger share of the non-resource export basket, the higher they are in the technology scale.

bahar_santos_cidwp68.pdf
2015
Hausmann, R., 2015. What are the Challenges of Economic Growth?.
Hausmann, R., Cheston, T. & Santos, M.A., 2015. La Complejidad Economica de Chiapas.Abstract

Chiapas es el estado más pobre de México, y también el menos diversificado en su estructura productiva. Según los hallazgos de este reporte, esa dualidad no es una coincidencia casual. La escasa complejidad económica de Chiapas, medida tanto por la escasa sofisticación de sus exportaciones como por la exigua diversidad en la composición de su empleo, es uno de los factores asociados a sus bajos niveles de ingreso y escaso crecimiento. Para cambiar el patrón de crecimiento de Chiapas es necesario cambiar su estructura de producción, haciéndola más compleja y sofisticada.

Afortunadamente, existe un enorme potencial para que diferentes lugares de Chiapas se muevan de manera gradual hacia productos e industrias de mayor sofisticación, con base en el conocimiento con el que ya cuentan hoy en día. No todos los lugares tienen el mismo potencial; la diversidad de capacidades productivas que existe en México se reproduce hacia el interior de Chiapas de manera fractal. Nuestros análisis indican que la variedad de niveles de ingresos hacia adentro de las regiones sigue siendo mayor que las diferencias entre los promedios de esas regiones. Esta característica justifica la utilización de un enfoque municipal, centrado en aquellas zonas urbanas de mayor población, con suficiente diversidad y sofisticación como para justificar un análisis de productos e industrias “adyacentes” de mayor complejidad que requieran capacidades similares a las ya existentes. Este enfoque reconoce que la esperanza en el corto plazo para muchos ciudadanos que no habitan en la vecindad de las regiones más sofisticadas del estado está en la posibilidad de moverse gradualmente hacia niveles de productividad agrícola más alta.

En este reporte se identifican cuáles son los productos e industrias que ofrecen las mejores posibilidades de diversificación productiva para incrementar la complejidad económica de cuatro de los municipios más complejos de Chiapas, considerando sus capacidades iniciales. Como resultado, se presenta un resumen diferenciado de las principales posibilidades y los retos que debe superar cada lugar para capitalizarlas. Comitán de Domínguez debe centrarse en resolver restricciones logísticas asociadas a conflictos sociales para capitalizar sus posibilidades como destino turístico de alto nivel, y desarrollar una base de fabricación de artículos para el hogar y textiles. San Cristóbal de las Casas está bien posicionado para aprovechar las habilidades desarrolladas en la producción de artesanías y transferirlas a la de textiles sofisticados, en adición a nuevas oportunidades en recubrimientos metálicos, y fabricación de alimentos y bebidas. Para materializar el potencial de Tuxtla Gutiérrez se requiere reconvertir ese amplio sector de servicios que responde a la demanda creada por el gasto público en la capital del estado, en una base de manufacturas más diversa.  Los principales candidatos para movilizar esa transformación productiva son los sectores de textiles y peletería, procesamiento de alimentos, y ciertas categorías particulares de maquinaria por línea de producción.

De todas las regiones de Chiapas, Tapachula es la que posee mayor potencial para expandir su base exportadora hacia productos de mayor complejidad. La región concentra la mayoría de las exportaciones del estado, y cuenta con la creación de la Zona Económica Especial (ZEE) y su parque industrial que permiten abordar nuevas capacidades productivas más complejas y adyacentes. Se identifica el potencial de los productos plásticos, de pinturas y películas, y de metalurgia, de relojes y equipos de soldadura, como unas oportunidades únicas en el estado para promover su transformación productiva.

Nuestro reporte concluye con una reflexión sobre la necesidad de traducir la identificación de los potenciales de cada una de las regiones en una realidad distinta, en una economía diversa, compleja, y próspera. La transformación productiva de Chiapas comenzará por la mejora de la productividad agrícola y la creación de oportunidades en las zonas urbanas que permiten aglomeraciones de conocimientos diversos en firmas complejas. El crecimiento económico en Chiapas no requiere innovación, sino más bien de que el estado aprenda del resto de México a producir de manera eficiente los bienes que el resto del país ya produce.  

Esta posibilidad exige a su vez de la existencia de un sector público capaz de convocar a firmas existentes, y otras que ya operan en el resto de México, para inaugurar nuevas facilidades de producción en Chiapas, combinando nuevas tecnologías y conocimientos con los que ya existen en la región. Así, se va desarrollando de forma gradual la densidad de su tejido productivo y diversidad económica. En última instancia, la clave para capitalizar el enorme potencial de Chiapas está en un cambio en la orientación del discurso productivo, que priorice la diversificación de la economía y la conquista gradual de sectores de mayor complejidad como herramienta para promover el crecimiento inclusivo.

cid_wp_302.pdf executive_summary_english.pdf
Hausmann, R. & Chauvin, J., 2015. Moving to the Adjacent Possible: Discovering Paths for Export Diversification in Rwanda.Abstract

How can Rwanda, which currently has one of the lowest levels of income and exports per capita in the world, grow and diversify its economy in presence of significant constraints? We analyze Rwanda's historical growth and trade performance and find that Rwanda's high transportation costs and limited productive knowledge have held back greater export development and have resulted in excessive rural density. Three basic commodities – coffee, tea, and tin – made up more than 80 percent of the country's exports through its history and still drive the bulk of export growth today. Given Rwanda’s high population density and associated land scarcity, these traditional exports cannot create enough jobs for its growing population, or sustainably drive future growth. Rwanda needs new, scalable activities in urban areas. In this report, we identify a strategy for greater diversification of exports in Rwanda that circumvents the key constraints and is separately tailored for regional and global export destinations. Our results identify more than 100 tradable products that lie at Rwanda's knowledge frontier, are not intensive in Rwanda's scarce resources, and economize on transportation costs. Our analysis produces a vision of a more diversified Rwanda, which can be used as a guide for investment promotion decisions. We illustrate an approach that can be applied to other settings in order to identify opportunities for export diversification that take seriously local constraints and external market opportunities.

hausmann_chauvin_rwanda_294.pdf
2014
Hausmann, R., et al., 2014. How should Uganda grow?.Abstract

Income per capita in Uganda has doubled in the last 20 years. This remarkable performance has been buoyed by significant aid flows and large external imbalances. Economic growth has been concentrated in non-tradable activities leading to growing external imbalances and a growing gap between rural and urban incomes. Future growth will depend on achieving sufficient export dynamism. In addition, growth faces a number of other challenges: low urbanization rate, rapid rural population growth and high dependency ratios. However, both the dependency ratio and fertility rates have begun to decline recently. Rural areas are also severely overcrowded with low-productivity subsistence agriculture as a pervasive form of production. Commercial agriculture has great possibilities to increase output, but as the sector improves its access to capital, inputs and technology it will shed jobs rather than create them.

These challenges combined tell us that future growth in Uganda will require a rapid rate of export growth and economic diversification. The country faces the prospect of an oil boom of uncertain size and timing. It could represent an important stepping stone to achieve external sustainability, expanded income and infrastructure and a greater internal market. However, as with all oil booms, the challenges include avoiding the Dutch disease, managing the inevitable volatility in oil incomes and avoiding inefficient specialization in oil. Policies that set targets for the non-oil deficit could help manage some of these effects, but a conscious strategy to diversify would still be needed.

The best strategy is therefore to use the additional oil revenue and accompanying investments to promote a diversification strategy that is sustainable. To determine how to encourage such a transformation, we draw on a new line of research that demonstrates how development seldom implies producing more of the same. Instead, as countries grow, they tend to move into new industries, while they also increase productivity in existing sectors. In this report, we analyze what those new industries might be for Uganda.

To do so, we first look to those products which balance the desire to increase the diversification and complexity of production, while not over-stretching existing capabilities. These include mostly agricultural inputs, such as agrochemicals and food processing. In addition, Uganda should concurrently develop more complex industries, such as construction materials, that are reasonably within reach of current capabilities and will be in great demand in the context of an oil boom. Here, the fact that Uganda is landlocked and faces high import costs will provide natural protection to the expanding demand in Uganda and neighboring countries. We conclude with a discussion of the government policies that will support Uganda in developing new tradable industries.

cid_working_paper_275.pdf
2013
2013. Economic Complexity Brief.Abstract

How does an economy grow? What is economic complexity? How do we determine where countries can start to diversify their production? The growth theories of Ricardo Hausmann and others at CID are explained in this 5 page briefing.

economic_complexity_briefing.pdf
The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity
Hausmann, R., et al., 2013. The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity 2nd ed., Cambridge: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

From the foreword:

It has been two years since we published the first edition of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. "The Atlas," as we have come to refer to it, has helped extend the availability of tools and methods that can be used to study the productive structure of countries and its evolution.

Many things have happened since the first edition of The Atlas was released at CID's Global Empowerment Meeting, on October 27, 2011. The new edition has sharpened the theory and empirical evidence of how knowhow affects income and growth and how knowhow itself grows over time. In this edition, we also update our numbers to 2010, thus adding two more years of data and extending our projections. We also undertook a major overhaul of the data. Sebastián Bustos and Muhammed Yildirim went back to the original sources and created a new dataset that significantly improves on the one used for the 2011 edition. They developed a new technique to clean the data, reducing inconsistencies and the problems caused by misreporting. The new dataset provides a more accurate estimate of the complexity of each country and each product. With this improved dataset, our results are even stronger.

The online sister site of this publication, The Atlas online, has been significantly enhanced with the use of an updated dataset which now covers up to 2013; the addition of bilateral trade data; and the inclusion of trade information classified according to the Harmonized System, a recently developed dataset which goes back to 1995, as well as the more traditional Standard International Trade Classification (SITC-4) dating back to 1962. Also, The Atlas online now includes multilingual support, country profiles, bulk data downloads, and a large number of design features, including dynamic text for the Tree Map visualizations and an improved design of the Product Space visualizations.

The Atlas online was originally launched as The Observatory and was developed by Alex Simoes with the assistance of Crystal Noel. The Atlas online is currently managed by Romain Vuillemot at the Center for International Development at Harvard University.

All in all, the new version of The Atlas provides a more accurate picture of each country’s economy, its "adjacent possible" and its future growth potential.

atlas_2013_part1.pdf
2011
The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping paths to Prosperity
Hausmann, R., et al., 2011. The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping paths to Prosperity,Abstract

Over the past two centuries, mankind has accomplished what used to be unthinkable. When we look back at our long list of achievements, it is easy to focus on the most audacious of them, such as our conquest of the skies and the moon. Our lives, however, have been made easier and more prosperous by a large number of more modest, yet crucially important feats. Think of electric bulbs, telephones, cars, personal computers, antibiotics, TVs, refrigerators, watches and water heaters. Think of the many innovations that benefit us despite our minimal awareness of them, such as advances in port management, electric power distribution, agrochemicals and water purification. This progress was possible because we got smarter. During the past two centuries, the amount of productive knowledge we hold expanded dramatically. This was not, however, an individual phenomenon. It was a collective phenomenon. As individuals we are not much more capable than our ancestors, but as societies we have developed the ability to make all that we have mentioned – and much, much more.

HarvardMIT_Atlas2011.pdf
2009
Hidalgo, C.A. & Hausmann, R., 2009. The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 106 (26) , pp. 10570-10575.Abstract

For Adam Smith, wealth was related to the division of labor. As people and firms specialize in different activities, economic effi- ciency increases, suggesting that development is associated with an increase in the number of individual activities and with the complexity that emerges from the interactions between them. Here we develop a view of economic growth and development that gives a central role to the complexity of a country’s economy by interpreting trade data as a bipartite network in which countries are connected to the products they export, and show that it is possible to quantify the complexity of a country’s economy by characterizing the structure of this network. Furthermore, we show that the measures of complexity we derive are correlated with a country’s level of income, and that deviations from this relationship are predictive of future growth. This suggests that countries tend to converge to the level of income dictated by the complexity of their productive structures, indicating that development efforts should focus on generating the conditions that would allow complexity to emerge to generate sustained growth and prosperity.

zpq10570.pdf
Hidalgo, C.A. & Hausmann, R., 2009. The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity.Abstract

For Adam Smith, wealth was related to the division of labor. As people and firms specialize in different activities, economic efficiency increases, suggesting that development is associated with an increase in the number of individual activities and with the complexity that emerges from the interactions between them. Here we develop a view of economic growth and development that gives a central role to the complexity of a country's economy by interpreting trade data as a bipartite network in which countries are connected to the products they export, and show that it is possible to quantify the complexity of a country's economy by characterizing the structure of this network. Furthermore, we show that the measures of complexity we derive are correlated with a country's level of income, and that deviations from this relationship are predictive of future growth. This suggests that countries tend to converge to the level of income dictated by the complexity of their productive structures, indicating that development efforts should focus on generating the conditions that would allow complexity to emerge in order to generate sustained growth and prosperity.

186.pdf