The Growth Lab’s research aims to uncover the mechanisms behind economic growth. We approach this challenge from the perspective that economic development involves not just producing more of the same, but also upgrading the composition of what a place produces. For economies to grow, they must become more complex.
How do economies become more complex? We approach this question with a wide range of research that falls into roughly three categories – economic transformation, knowledge and technology diffusion, and the coordination of knowhow.
The logic behind the Growth Lab's model of economic growth is comparable to Scrabble.
Diffusion of Knowledge and Technology
Coordination of Knowhow
The world continues to add to the global stock of knowledge, but the cognitive capacity of individuals to absorb and use knowledge is limited. In response, societies have long divided knowledge across an expanding array of experts. The challenge they now face is to coordinate these individuals into teams that, together, encompass all of the knowhow needed to produce complex goods and services in modern economies. To understand this challenge, we study factors that affect the coordination of knowhow, including the skill-composition of jobs, the formation of teams, global value chains, the role of cities as places where collective know-how is coordinated, and the way changing institutions and technologies create new ways for individuals to collaborate.
The Scrabble Logic
We often think of the logic of economic development using an analogy to the game of Scrabble. Like players in Scrabble, economies possess a set of capabilities – letters – that they can use to produce products – words. Different products require different letters. Accordingly, economic development involves finding out which products can be produced with a place’s current capabilities – what words it can write with the letters it currently has. It also involves finding out how new letters can be acquired. This model of the world has deep consequences, some of which are described in the Atlas of Economic Complexity, the urban scaling theory, and the network structure of economic output, and understanding other consequences drives much of our research agenda.
The Scrabble logic plays out on different scales: Countries export a certain mix of products, regions and cities host a variety of industries, firms are active on different markets, and people have a range of skills that enable them to work in specific jobs. This is one reason why our research spans across many different fields, such as international trade, economic geography, strategic management, labor economics and migration and uses a variety of analytical approaches, such as econometrics and economic modeling, computer science, complexity sciences and network analysis.
Join Our Team
The Growth Lab accepts applications on a rolling basis for Pre or Postdoctoral Fellows who are interested in conducting research in the areas of economic development, growth, macroeconomics, and trade as part of the Growth Lab. These fellowships are non-stipendiary. Candidates must have own source of funding. Learn more about our process.
In the video below, Research Director Frank Neffke shares insights into the Growth Lab's research agenda.