About the Growth Lab

The Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development works in the pursuit of inclusive prosperity and a quality of life for everyone that we know is achievable.

We do this by pushing the frontiers of economic growth and development policy research, collaborating with policymakers to design actions, and sharing our insights through teaching, tools, and publications. The Growth Lab currently has research agendas and policy engagements in 8 countries. 

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Led by Ricardo Hausmann, the Growth Lab uniquely blends an academic research team, policy research team, and digital development team, working together as one entity. Our research teams combine empirical and theoretical research on the determinants of growth and its social, political, and environmental sustainability. Our digital development transforms the internal tools we use to conduct research into public goods for the world to use.

To accomplish our work, we maintain a strong academic research team that focuses on advancing the theory of economic development. This team works together with our policy-oriented researchers that understand our theories and apply them to country-specific challenges. Our diverse team includes multi-disciplinary fellows with backgrounds ranging from economics to physics and computer science, as well as a highly trained staff that creates tools for dissemination and learning. We also collaborate with a community of experts in and outside Harvard University who help expand our realm of expertise.

Our Trademark Technologies

Economic Complexity

Economic Complexity is a measure of the amount of capabilities and knowhow that goes into the production of any given product. Products are made out of knowledge. To make a shirt, one needs to design it, make the fabric, cut it, sew it, pack it, brand it, market it and distribute it. For a country to produce shirts, it needs people who have expertise in each of these areas. Each of these tasks involves many more capabilities than any one person can master. Only by combining knowhow from different people can any one product be made.

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How do countries accumulate productive knowhow they did not previously have? If the product is new it may require knowhow that nobody in the country possesses. If this involves too many different people, such a product may not be feasible. As a consequence, countries tend to move from the products they know how to make to others that are not too far away in terms of knowhow. The Product Space is a theoretical concept in which the distance between any two products is related to the distance in the capabilities required to make them. As a tool, it can help us determine which products require productive knowhow that is similar to the knowhow a country already possesses.

Using network science algorithms, the Product Space connects nearly 900 products across 9 sectors. The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity and The Atlas online present this set of maps for every country illustrating where the economic opportunities for each country reside. More specifically, the Product Space is a visualization of the ‘capability distance’ between products. If a country makes one product, we estimate how easy it is to obtain the knowhow it will need in order to make another. The resulting space is the visualization of these connections between products based on the capabilities they share. Using the Product Space, we can predict the evolution of growth.

Watch our brief video tutorials:

Complexity & Knowhow    Product Space

Growth Diagnostics

Growth Diagnostics is a methodology developed by Ricardo Hausmann, Dani Rodrik and Andrés Velasco to determine the obstacles to a country’s capacity to grow. It is a unified framework for identifying the binding constraints to growth, which is key to formulating growth strategies. The main idea is that each country may be bumping against different potential constraints but each constellation of constraints must be giving off a different collection of symptoms or signals. These symptoms can then be used to perform a differential diagnosis.

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Potential constraints are scrutinized systematically using a decision tree. The researchers need then to come up with a syndrome that can account for the identified constellation of symptoms and can account for their persistence. By using Growth Diagnostics, policymakers can develop a clearer theory of change by designing policies that can take the country out of (or workaround) its current syndrome and relax its most binding constraints.

The Growth Lab has conducted growth diagnostic exercises in many locations, most recently in Albania, Jordan, Namibia, Panama, Sri Lanka, and Western Australia. View all of our Growth Diagnostic research

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For Researchers

Access to Publications & Tools

The Growth Lab publishes its research papers in several open-access repositories; the Center for International Development's Working Paper Series, the HKS Faculty Research Working Paper SeriesHarvard DASH, and RePEc. All Growth Lab faculty, fellows, and associates with related research are eligible to publish in the CID series. All of the Growth Lab's digital tools are publically available and accessible via the Viz Hub

Research Seminar Series

This weekly seminar series brings together researchers from across the academic spectrum who share an interest in growth and development. The seminar emphasizes interdisciplinary exchanges between the social and natural sciences, and speakers are welcome to present early-stage or mature work on a wide range of topics, including migration, local markets, structural change, innovation and the dynamics of technology, models of combinatorial growth, economic history, social and cultural evolution, the environmental impacts of growth, and trade. Learn more

Visiting Fellows & Scholars

The Growth Lab annually accepts a small number of visiting scholars to join the lab and pursue common research efforts. Applicants must bring their own funding sources. A typical stay at the Growth Lab is between 6 and 12 months (with a minimum of 3 months). Apply

For Practitioners

Policy Engagements

The Growth Lab's policy research teams work to understand the specific dynamics of economic growth and structural change in different contexts. Our project engagements provide local stakeholders with insights on the policies needed to unleash the growth potential of their economies.

Publications & Tools

Our working papers, policy briefs, and other publications are available in many open-access repositories.  Our digital design and development team translates research and insights into online web applications and interactive storytelling, all made publicly available and used by a global community of policymakers, scholars, investors, and journalists.

Development Talks

This series of conversations with policymakers and academics working in international development provides a platform for practitioners and researchers to discuss both the practice of development and analytical work centered on policy. 

Teaching

We teach and train economic development practitioners around the world. Our Leading Economic Growth Executive Education program provides a framework for understanding economic growth, as well as sophisticated tools for diagnosis, decision making, and implementation. 

For Students

The Growth Lab offers many opportunities for all students to engage with our faculty and fellows, and contribute to our mission.

Events

The Growth Lab's Research Seminar Series (interdisciplinary exchanges between the social and natural sciences, and speakers are welcome to present early-stage or mature work) and Development Talks (series of conversations with policymakers and academics working in international development) are open to all students. We hosted more than 50 events and 1,500 attendees in 2021. 

Internships

The Growth Lab regularly recruits Master's level students for its Summer Internship Program. The students are embedded in our policy projects, working at various government ministries and closely with senior officials to conduct research as well as policy analysis.
Meet the 2021 InternsRead their blogs

Courses

As a research program, the Growth Lab does not confer degrees or offer classes. Prospective students interested in studying international development should consider the Kennedy School’s MPA/ID degree program or its Executive Education programs. Growth Lab director Ricardo Hausmann teaches courses in both programs and incorporates our methodologies, research insights, and tools. 

For Donors

The Growth Lab relies on the generous support of individuals, organizations, and foundations to fund our academic research and policy projects, the tools that translate our research insights into public goods; and our greatest assets, our team, who are dedicated to fulfilling our mission of inclusive prosperity.

If you would like to learn more about the Growth Lab and the ways you can support us, email  Andrea Carranza, or call (617) 384-5734.

People

Our Team

We are a multidisciplinary research organization with more than 40 faculty, fellows, and staff, and 20 visiting fellows and affiliated associates.

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Jobs & Opportunities

We're hiring a Research Manager! Join our team of leading economists and public policy experts to lead a cutting-edge development research agenda and gain first-hand experience working with policy partners, developing research inputs for policy design.

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