Faculty Working Papers

Hausmann, R., et al., 2021. Western Australia – Research Findings and Policy Recommendations.Abstract

The Government of Western Australia (WA), acting through its Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), invited the Growth Lab of the Center for International Development at Harvard University to partner with the state to better understand and address constraints to economic diversification through a collaborative applied research project. The project seeks to apply growth diagnostic and economic complexity methodologies to inform policy design in order to accelerate productive transformation, economic diversification, and more inclusive and resilient job creation across Western Australia.

This report is organized in six sections, including this brief introduction. Section 2 is an Executive Summary. Section 3 explains the methodologies of Growth Diagnostics and Economic Complexity, including its theoretical foundations and main concepts. Section 4 describes the main findings of the Economic Complexity Report, including a characterization of Western Australia’s complexity profile. This is done at the state, regional, and city levels. Additionally, this section identifies diversification opportunities with high potential and organizes them into groupings to capture important patterns among the opportunities. This section also contextualizes the opportunities further by identifying relevant viability and attractiveness factors that complement the complexity metrics and consider local conditions. Section 5 highlights the main findings of the Growth Perspective Report. This section describes the economic growth process of Western Australia — with a focus on the past two decades — and identifies several issues with the way that growth has occurred. This section highlights three key channels through which negative externalities have manifested: labor market imbalances, pro-cyclicality of fiscal policy, and a misalignment of public goods. The section provides perspectives on the ways in which each of these channels have hampered the quality of growth and explores the deep-rooted factors that underpin these adverse dynamics. Section 6 introduces a policy framework that can be leveraged by WA to capitalize on revealed diversification opportunities and address the factors that impact the quality of the growth process of the state.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2021. Economic Complexity Report for Western Australia.Abstract

The Government of Western Australia (WA), acting through its Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), invited the Growth Lab of the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University to partner with the state to better understand and address constraints to economic diversification through a collaborative applied research project. The project seeks to apply growth diagnostic and economic complexity methodologies to inform policy design in order to accelerate productive transformation, economic diversification, and more inclusive and resilient job creation across Western Australia.

This Economic Complexity Report is organized in six sections, including this brief introduction. Section 2 explains the methodology of economic complexity, including its theoretical foundations and main concepts, as well as the adjustments that were required to obtain the required export data at a subnational level and incorporate the service sector to the analysis. Section 3 describes the structure of the WA economy, identifying its productive capacities and exploring its complexity profile. This is done at the state, regional, and city levels. Section 4 identifies industries with high potential and organizes them into groupings to capture important patterns among the opportunities. Section 5 contextualizes the opportunities further by identifying relevant viability and attractiveness factors that complement the complexity metrics and consider local conditions, as well as a criterion for regional participation in the state-wide diversification strategy. Finally, Section 6 summarizes the main findings of this report and discusses implications for Government of WA strategy and policy toward capitalizing on these revealed opportunities.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2021. Growth Perspective on Western Australia.Abstract

The Government of Western Australia (WA), acting through its Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), invited the Growth Lab of the Center for International Development at Harvard University to partner with the state to better understand and address constraints to economic diversification through a collaborative applied research project. The project seeks to apply growth diagnostic and economic complexity methodologies to inform policy design in order to accelerate productive transformation, economic diversification, and more inclusive and resilient job creation across Western Australia. As its name implies, this Growth Perspective Report aims to provide a set of perspectives on the process of economic growth in WA that provide insights for policymakers toward improving growth outcomes.

This Growth Perspective Report describes both the economic growth process of Western Australia — with a focus on the past two decades — and identifies several problematic issues with the way that growth has been structured. In particular, this report traces important ways in which policies applied during the boom and subsequent slowdown in growth over the last twenty years have exacerbated a number of self-reinforcing negative externalities of undiversified growth. The report analyzes three key channels through which negative externalities have manifested: labor market imbalances, pro-cyclicality of fiscal policy, and a misalignment of public goods. The report includes sections on each of these channels, which provide perspectives on the ways in which they have hampered the quality of growth and explore the reasons why problematic externalities have become self-reinforcing. In some cases, new issues have emerged in the most recent iteration of WA’s boom-slowdown cycle, but many issues have roots in the long-term growth history of WA.

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 defne 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.
Goldstein, P., Yeyati, E.L. & Sartorio, L., 2021. Lockdown Fatigue: The Diminishing Effects of Quarantines on the Spread of COVID-19.Abstract
Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) have been for most countries the key policy instrument utilized to contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we conduct an empirical analysis of the impact of these policies on the virus’ transmission and death toll, for a panel of 152 countries, from the start of the pandemic through December 31, 2020. We find that lockdowns tend to significantly reduce the spread of the virus and the number of related deaths. We also show that this benign impact declines over time: after four months of strict lockdown, NPIs have a significantly weaker contribution in terms of their effect in reducing COVID-19 related fatalities. Part of the fading effect of quarantines could be attributed to an increasing non-compliance with mobility restrictions, as reflected in our estimates of a declining effect of lockdowns on measures of actual mobility. However, we additionally find that a reduction in de facto mobility also exhibits a diminishing effect on health outcomes, which suggests that lockdown fatigues may have introduce broader hurdles to containment policies.
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.
Hausmann, R. & Rodrik, D., 2002. Economic Development as Self-Discovery.Abstract
In the presence of uncertainty about what a country can be good at producing, there can be great social value to discovering costs of domestic activities because such discoveries can be easily imitated. We develop a general-equilibrium framework for a small open economy to clarify the analytical and normative issues. We highlight two failures of the laissez-faire outcome: there is too little investment and entrepreneurship ex ante, and too much production diversification ex post. Optimal policy consists of counteracting these distortions: to encourage investments in the modern sector ex ante, but to rationalize production ex post. We provide some informal evidence on the building blocks of our model.
Hausmann, R. & Sturzenegger, F., 2006. The Implications of Dark Matter for Assessing the US External Imbalance.Abstract
This paper clarifies how dark matter changes our assessment of the US external imbalance. Dark matter assets are defined as the capitalized value of the return privilege obtained by US assets. Because this return privilege has been steady over recent decades, it is likely to persist in the future or even to increase, as it becomes leveraged by an increasingly globalized world. Once this is included in future projections of US current accounts, the US external position looks much more balanced than depicted in official statistics.
Hausmann, R., Rodríguez, F. & Wagner, R., 2006. Growth Collapses.Abstract

We study episodes where economic growth decelerates to negative rates. While the majority of these episodes are of short duration, a substantial fraction last for a longer period of time than can be explained as the result of business-cycle dynamics. The duration, depth and associated output loss of these episodes differs dramatically across regions. We investigate the factors associated with the entry of countries into these episodes as well as their duration. We find that while countries fall into crises for multiple reasons, including wars, export collapses, sudden stops and political transitions, most of these variables do not help predict the duration of crises episodes. In contrast, we find that a measure of the density of a country's export product space is significantly associated with lower crisis duration. We also find that unconditional and conditional hazard rates are decreasing in time, a fact that is consistent with either strong shocks to fundamentals or with models of poverty traps.

Hausmann, R., Rodrik, D. & Sabel, C., 2008. Reconfiguring Industrial Policy: A Framework with an Application to South Africa.Abstract
The main purpose of industrial policy is to speed up the process of structural change towards higher productivity activities. This paper builds on our earlier writings to present an overall design for the conduct of industrial policy in a low- to middle-income country. It is stimulated by the specific problems faced by South Africa and by our discussions with business and government officials in that country. We present specific recommendations for the South African government in the penultimate section of the paper.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2009. Policies for Achieving Structural Transformation in the Caribbean.Abstract

Countries seldom grow rich by producing the same things more productively. They usually change what they produce in the process of development. Structural transformation is the process whereby countries move to new economic activities that are more productive and thus are able to pay higher wages. This process is very important for growth: countries that are able to upgrade their exports by developing new economic activities tend to grow faster (Hausmann and Rodrik, 2003; Hausmann, Hwang, and Rodrik, 2006).

The purpose of this paper is to apply new methodologies to analyze the history of and future opportunities for structural transformation in the Caribbean. We first look at the composition of exports from the Caribbean, and show that the region is specialized in relatively unsophisticated, ―poor-country‖ export products, and this is not simply a consequence of their small size or specialization in tourism and financial services.

We then review the concept of the ―product space‖ and determine where the Caribbean countries are specialized within this space. The results show that generally these countries export peripheral products that are intensive in capabilities with few alternative uses. In addition, we consider what effects regional integration would have on this opportunity set and show that future opportunities for structural transformation are much higher for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as a perfectly integrated zone—higher than for any of its members on their own.

The final section discusses the policy implications of these results. We show that for almost all countries in the Caribbean there is a need to move to new export activities. Some countries in the region have a set of nearby activities they could exploit, including in the services sector, which suggests a parsimonious approach to promoting new activities is appropriate. This approach involves the government better orienting itself to learn what emerging sectors need in the way of publically provided inputs. But for many countries in the region, there are few nearby activities, suggesting a more proactive search process is necessary. In the appendix we apply the product space data to this search for nearby and more distant export activities for Belize and Jamaica. However, such data is merely a starting point for what must be a continuous process of high-bandwidth dialogue with the private sector to learn what is needed for new activities to emerge. We provide general design guidelines for such a dialogue, both for nearby and more distant activities, and we outline some specific initiatives as examples.

Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2010. Structural Transformation in Ecuador. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper applies new techniques and metrics to analyze Ecuador's past record of and future opportunities for structural transformation. Ecuador's export dynamics and the emergence of new export activities have been the historical drivers of the country's growth, but recently Ecuador's export basket has undergone little structural transformation. The same broad sectors continue to dominate, and the overall sophistication of the export basket has actually declined in recent years. In order to consider why movement to new, more sophisticated export activities has lagged in Ecuador, we examine export connectedness and find that the country is concentrated in a peripheral part of the product space. We quantitatively scan Ecuador's efficient frontier and identify new, high-potential export activities that are nearby in the product space. This sector evaluation provides valuable information for the government to prioritize dialogue and interventions, but it is not meant to be a conclusive identification of "winners". Rather, we provide policy guidelines to facilitate the emergence of these and other new export activities, dealing with the sector-specificity of much of what the government must provide to the private sector to succeed while at the same time avoiding the well-known perils of traditional industrial policies.
Hausmann, R., Klinger, B. & Lawrence, R., 2008. Examining Beneficiation.Abstract
Beneficiation, moving downstream, and promoting greater value added in natural resources are very common policy initiatives to stimulate new export sectors in developing countries, largely based on the premise that this is a natural and logical path for structural transformation. But upon closer examination, we find that very few countries that export raw materials also export their processed forms, or transition to greater processing. The quantitative analysis finds that broad factor intensities do a much better job of identifying patterns of production and structural transformation than forward linkages, which have an insignificant impact despite the fact that our data is biased against finding significant effects of factor intensities and towards finding significant effects of forward linkages. Moreover, the explanatory power of forward linkages is even smaller in sectors with high transport costs, and in sectors classified as primary products or raw materials, which are the most common targets of such policies. Finally, the results are the same even when only considering developed countries, meaning that colonial legacy inhibiting transitions to natural resource processing are not to blame. These results suggest that policies to promote greater downstream processing as an export promotion policy are misguided. Structural transformation favors sectors with similar technological requirements, factor intensities, and other requisite capabilities, not products connected in production chains. There is no reason for countries like South Africa to focus attention on beneficiation at the expense of policies that would allow other export sectors to emerge. This makes no sense conceptually, and is completely inconsistent with international experience. Quite simply, beneficiation is a bad policy paradigm.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. Achieving Export-Led Growth in Colombia. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The purpose of this paper is to analyze Colombia’s experiences with and opportunities for export led growth. We first review Colombia’s growth and export performance over the past 30 years and find that the country is indeed facing an export challenge. We then go on to develop new metrics and apply them to Colombia’s export challenge. First, we consider the opportunities for upgrading quality within existing exports, and find that Colombia has very little opportunity for growth in this dimension. Second, we consider the level of sophistication of the current export basket, and find that it is low and commensurate with the lack of export dynamism. Although not a significant drag on growth, the current export basket will not be sufficient to fuel future output growth. Finally, we develop the concept distances between products, open forest, and the option value of exports to examine the possibility that Colombia’s current structure of production is itself a barrier to future structural transformation. While improvements in the export package have been slow in the past, this evidence suggests that Colombia does now enjoy more options for future structural transformation. As there are attractive options for structural transformation nearby, a parsimonious approach to industrial strategy, rather than a risky strategic bet to move to a new part of the product space, seems appropriate. In order to inform such a strategy, we use the metrics developed in the diagnostic to evaluate new export activities in terms of their proximity to current activities, their sophistication, and their strategic value. We identify the sectors representing the best tradeoffs between these aims for Colombia as a whole, as well as its regions. We also devote separate attention to the topic of Agricultural exports, and to exports of services. Finally, we use these metrics to analyze the list of ‘high-potential’ sectors in the United States, developed by another firm, as well as the sectors prioritized in Colombia’s Agenda Interna. These external lists of high-potential sectors are found to be sensible, but could be further rationalized using these metrics. This identification of nearby, high-potential, and strategically valuable sectors is not meant to be a definitive list for targeted subsidies and ‘picking winners’. Rather, it provides a robust data-driven approach to inform the next steps in achieving export-led growth in Colombia: which private sector actors should be consulted first? What sector-specific reforms should be stressed? How should public spending on infrastructure and training, which are also sector-specific, be prioritized? What foreign firms should be targeted by FDI promotion agencies? These decisions can be informed by our analysis and the accompanying data.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2006. South Africa's Export Predicament. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This paper explores export performance in South Africa over the past 50 years, and concludes that a lagging process of structural transformation is part of the explanation for stagnant exports per capita. Slow structural transformation in South Africa is found to be a consequence of the peripheral nature of South Africa’s productive capabilities. We apply new tools to evaluate South Africa’s future prospects for structural transformation, as well as to explore the sectoral priorities of the DTI’s draft industrial strategy. We then discuss policy conclusions, advocating an ‘open-architecture’ industrial policy where the methods applied herein are but one tool to screen private sector requests for sector-specific coordination and public goods.

* See also the 7/27/07 Sciencenews article as well as the supplementary materials website.

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