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RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT

What Would Happen if Business Travel Stopped?Black silhouettes of people in an airport with orange sunrise through window


International travel is ubiquitous in business firms. In light of the recent shutdowns of air travel due to COVID-19 and the prevalence of virtual communication, however, one might question its value. New research from Michele Coscia, Franke Neffke, and Ricardo Hausmann - recently published in Nature Human Behaviour - shows that business travel, and its subsequent transfer of knowhow, actually drives economic growth. Further, the researchers quantify the value of business travel by estimating the loss in global GDP if it were to stop.

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

Estimating the drivers of urban economic complexity and their connection to economic performance
Gomez-Lievano, A. & Patterson-Lomba, O., 2021. Estimating the drivers of urban economic complexity and their connection to economic performance. Royal Society Open Science , 8 (9). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Estimating the capabilities, or inputs of production, that drive and constrain the economic development of urban areas has remained a challenging goal. We posit that capabilities are instantiated in the complexity and sophistication of urban activities, the know-how of individual workers, and the city-wide collective know-how. We derive a model that indicates how the value of these three quantities can be inferred from the probability that an individual in a city is employed in a given urban activity. We illustrate how to estimate empirically these variables using data on employment across industries and metropolitan statistical areas in the USA. We then show how the functional form of the probability function derived from our theory is statistically superior when compared with competing alternative models, and that it explains well-known results in the urban scaling and economic complexity literature. Finally, we show how the quantities are associated with metrics of economic performance, suggesting our theory can provide testable implications for why some cities are more prosperous than others.
Shen, J.H., Wang, H. & Lin, S.C.-C., 2021. Productivity Gap and Inward FDI Spillovers: Theory and Evidence from China. China & World Economy , 29 (2) , pp. 24–48. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper constructs a two-stage sequential game model to shed light on the spillover effect of inward FDI on the efficiency of domestic firms in host countries. Our model shows that, given an optimal joint-venture policy made by foreign firms, the impact of the spillover effect of inward FDI is contingent upon the productivity gap between the domestic firms and foreign ones. In particular, we demonstrate that the spillover effect of inward FDI varies negatively with the productivity gap between domestic low-productivity firms and foreign firms but works in the opposite way for high-productivity firms. This suggests that once the productivity gap widens, the entry of foreign firms will increase the efficiency of high-productivity firms but reduce the efficiency of low-productivity firms. In support of our theoretical model, we provide robust empirical results by using the dataset of annual survey of Chinese industrial enterprises.
Toward an empirical investigation of the long-term debt and financing deficit nexus: evidence from Chinese-listed firms
Jiang, X., Shen, J.H. & Lee, C.-C., 2021. Toward an empirical investigation of the long-term debt and financing deficit nexus: evidence from Chinese-listed firms. Applied Economics. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As the literature has studied the financing method of Chinese-listed firms for a long time, but with inconclusive indications, this research thus adopts non-financial Chinese-listed firms’ data from 2003 to 2015 to investigate the relationship between long-term debt financing and financing deficit. We pay particular attention to three channels (ownership concentration, market timing, and state ownership) that potentially affect the adoption of long-term debt financing when there is a financing deficit. The empirical analysis documents a positive relationship between financing deficit and changes in the long-term debt ratio in our sampled firms for both static and dynamic panel models. Moreover, among the three channels we show that state ownership has the strongest positive impact on the adoption of long-term debt financing, followed by ownership concentration, while the weakest channel is the market timing’s negative effect. In general, our empirical analysis finds that the important external financing method of long-term debt is most likely to be impacted by the state ownership aspect.
Yildirim, M.A., 2021. Sorting, Matching and Economic Complexity.Abstract
Assignment models in trade predict that countries with higher productivity levels are assortatively matched to industries that make better use of these higher levels. Here, we assume that the driver of productivity differences is the differential distribution of factors among countries. Utilizing such a structure, we define and estimate the average factor level (AFL) for countries and products using only the information about the production patterns. Interestingly, our estimates coincide with the complexity variables of (Hidalgo and Hausmann, 2009), providing an underlying economic rationale. We show that AFL is highly correlated with country-level characteristics and predictive of future economic growth.
O'Clery, N., Yildirim, M.A. & Hausmann, R., 2021. Productive Ecosystems and the arrow of development. Nature Communications , 12. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Economic growth is associated with the diversification of economic activities, which can be observed via the evolution of product export baskets. Exporting a new product is dependent on having, and acquiring, a specific set of capabilities, making the diversification process path-dependent. Taking an agnostic view on the identity of the capabilities, here we derive a probabilistic model for the directed dynamical process of capability accumulation and product diversification of countries. Using international trade data, we identify the set of pre-existing products, the product Ecosystem, that enables a product to be exported competitively. We construct a directed network of products, the Eco Space, where the edge weight corresponds to capability overlap. We uncover a modular structure, and show that low- and middle-income countries move from product communities dominated by small Ecosystem products to advanced (large Ecosystem) product clusters over time. Finally, we show that our network model is predictive of product appearances.

Listen to the authors discuss their findings in this Growth Lab Podcast.

Jäggi, A., Schetter, U. & Schneider, M.T., 2021. Inequality, Openness, and Growth through Creative Destruction.Abstract
We examine how inequality and openness interact in shaping the long-run growth prospects of developing countries. To this end, we develop a Schumpeterian growth model with heterogeneous households and non-homothetic preferences for quality. We show that inequality affects growth very differently in an open economy as opposed to a closed economy: If the economy is close to the technological frontier, the positive demand effect of inequality on growth found in closed-economy models may be amplified by international competition. In countries with a larger distance to the technology frontier, however, rich households satisfy their demand for high quality via importing, and the effect of inequality on growth is smaller than in a closed economy and may even be negative. We show that this theoretical prediction holds up in the data, both when considering growth in export quality at the industry level and when considering growth in GDP per capita.
Production Ability and Economic Growth
Bustos, S. & Yildirim, M., 2020. Production Ability and Economic Growth. Research Policy . Publisher's VersionAbstract
Cities and countries undergo constant structural transformation. Industries need many inputs, such as regulations, infrastructure or productive knowledge, which we call capabilities. And locations are successful in hosting industries insofar as the capabilities that they can provide. We propose a capabilities-based production model and an empirical strategy to measure the Sophistication of a product and the Production Ability of a location. We apply our framework to international trade data and employment data in the United States, recovering measures of Production Ability for countries and cities, and the Sophistication of products and industries. We show that both country- and city-level measures have a strong correlation with income and economic growth at different time horizons. Product Sophistication is positively correlated with indicators of human capital and wages. Our model-based estimations predict product appearances and disappearances through the extensive margin.
Cakmakli, C., et al., 2021. The Economic Case for Global Vaccinations: An Epidemiological Model with International Production Networks.Abstract
COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on both lives and livelihoods in 2020. The arrival of effective vaccines can be a major game changer. However, vaccines are in short supply as of early 2021 and most of them are reserved for the advanced economies. We show that the global GDP loss of not inoculating all the countries, relative to a counterfactual of global vaccinations, is higher than the cost of manufacturing and distributing vaccines globally. We use an economic-epidemiological framework that combines a SIR model with international production and trade networks. Based on this framework, we estimate the costs for 65 countries and 35 sectors. Our estimates suggest that up to 49 percent of the global economic costs of the pandemic in 2021 are borne by the advanced economies even if they achieve universal vaccination in their own countries.
Macroeconomic Rationales for Public Investments in Science
Gersbach, H., Schetter, U. & Schneider, M.T., 2020. Macroeconomic Rationales for Public Investments in Science. Economic Inquiry , 59. Publisher's VersionAbstract
What is the economic rationale for investing in science? Based on an open economy model of creative destruction, we characterize four key factors of optimal investment in basic research: the stage of economic development, the strength of the manufacturing base, the degree of openness, and the share of foreign‐owned firms. For each of these factors, we analyze its bearings on optimal basic research investment. We then show that the predicted effects are consistent with patterns observed in the data and discuss how the factor‐based approach might inform basic research policies.
Shen, J.H., 2020. Supply-Side Structural Reform and Dynamic Capital Structure Adjustment: Evidence from Chinese-Listed Firms. Pacific-Basin Finance Journal , 65. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The literature extensively discusses the increasing commitment toward comprehensive structural reform of China’s economy as it targets to achieve high quality and sustainable economic growth. This research investigates the inherent relationship between supply-side structural reform (SSSR) and dynamic capital structure adjustment in Chinese-listed firms. Our results show that SSSR’s introduction has significantly improved the adjustment speed toward the optimal debt ratio, especially for firms with high indebtedness and low investment performance. Importantly, China’s bond market plays a crucial role through SSSR for firms’ debt ratio to adjust toward their optimal level. However, there is no such evidence among state-owned enterprises (SOEs), suggesting that the structural reform concerning corporate capital structure for SOEs is more challenging and longstanding when compared with non-SOEs.

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