Fellow Working Papers

Schetter, U., 2019. A Structural Ranking of Economic Complexity.Abstract
We propose a structural alternative to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI, Hidalgo and Hausmann 2009; Hausmann et al. 2011) that ranks countries by their complexity. This ranking is tied to comparative advantages. Hence, it reveals information different from GDP per capita on the deep underlying economic capabilities of countries. Our analysis proceeds in three main steps: (i) We first consider a simplified trade model that is centered on the assumption that countries’ global exports are log-supermodular (Costinot, 2009a), and show that a variant of the ECI correctly ranks countries (and products) by their complexity. This model provides a general theoretical framework for ranking nodes of a weighted (bipartite) graph according to some under- lying unobservable characteristic. (ii) We then embed a structure of log-supermodular productivities into a multi-product Eaton and Kortum (2002)-model, and show how our main insights from the simplified trade model apply to this richer set-up. (iii) We finally implement our structural ranking of economic complexity. The derived ranking is robust and remarkably similar to the one based on the original ECI.
Protzer, E.S.M., 2019. Social Mobility Explains Populism, Not Inequality or Culture.Abstract

What explains contemporary developed-world populism? A largely-overlooked hypothesis, advanced herein, is economic unfairness. This idea holds that humans do not simply care about the magnitudes of final outcomes such as losses or inequalities. They care deeply about whether each individual’s economic outcomes occur for fair reasons. Thus citizens turn to populism when they do not get the economic opportunities and outcomes they think they fairly deserve. A series of cross-sectional regressions show that low social mobility – an important type of economic unfairness – consistently correlates with the geography of populism, both within and across developed countries. Conversely, income and wealth inequality do not; and neither do the prominent cultural hypotheses of immigrant stocks, social media use, nor the share of seniors in the population. Collectively, this evidence underlines the importance of economic fairness, and suggests that academics and policymakers should pay greater attention to normative, moral questions about the economy.

Revised May 2021
Pan, C.I., 2019. Tax Avoidance in Buenos Aires: The Case of Ingresos Brutos.Abstract
This study presents evidence of tax avoidance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I exploit a break in the tax scheme of the most controversial tax, Ingresos Brutos (gross income), between the city and the greater area, which are otherwise identical law and regulation-wise for the studied population. When possible, workers would rather travel longer distances to their jobs than face the tax burden. Given that this type of avoidance is costly, results suggest that Ingresos Brutos might be acting as a binding constraint to growth for businesses.
Rama, M., 2019. Converge and European Value Chains: How Deep Integration Can Reignite Convergence in the EU.Abstract

Convergence, the process by which poorer countries ‘catch-up’ to rich ones in terms of real incomes, is at the core of the promise of the European Union and the Eurozone. It was enshrined in the founding treaty of the EU and is at the center of policy-making today. However, after several decades of strong European growth, convergence across many core countries has come to a halt. Policymaking has focused on promoting greater integration between EU countries and in particular within the Eurozone to foster further convergence but the political gridlock has stopped these initiatives from moving forward. 

Further economic and political integration is not necessary for, and may in fact be orthogonal to, greater convergence in the EU. EU countries have converged at roughly the same rate as non-EU countries since the 1950s, suggesting EU membership is not responsible for convergence. Further, there is no statistically significant difference in the rate of convergence between EA 12 or EA19 members before and after the introduction of the Euro. Finally, many current Eurozone members have converged in the last 10 years suggesting that the Euro structure does not impede convergence. Still, further integration may be desirable in the EU – not least to restore the union to its democratic ideals. 

The only variable that is associated with greater convergence in European countries is value chain integration, particularly upstream integration. Upstream integration is domestic value added embodied in intermediate exports that are re-processed abroad. High upstream integration indicates strong participation in value chains and integration into regional production networks. The level of upstream integration varies tremendously within the EU, going from 10% of GDP in Spain to 28% of GDP in Estonia. Once we control for the level of upstream integration, the rate of converge in European countries goes from 1.25% to 4.5%. 

High growth countries are deeply integrated in sub-regional supply chains within Europe. Europe is often thought of as a single supply chain but, in fact, there are several sub-regional supply chains within Europe. These sub-regional supply chains are based on strong bilateral ties between neighboring countries. Participation in one of these supply chains appears to matter more for growth than integration with any particular country (e.g. Germany) or to any specific region. Participation in these supply chains is independent of EU membership – it is due to historical ties and deliberate national policymaking. 

The EU must put cross-country collaboration at the core Horizon Europe– its €100B mission driven innovation programme – to future-proof European supply chains and reintegrate lagging countries. Horizon Europe is the EU’s bet to become a global technology leader. Leading in technology involves not only innovation but also developing the supply chains of the future that allow innovation to be commercially successful. Horizon Europe will not succeed if innovation spending continues occur in national siloes as it did in the Horizon 2020 programme. The EU must pro-actively manage and integrate innovation efforts across the Union and ensure that commercialization occurs at the EU level. Only then can we hope to achieve both EU technological leadership and convergence within the EU. 

Lora, E., 2019. Empleo Femenino en las Ciudades Colombianas: Un Método de Descripción Estadística.Abstract

Este trabajo propone una metodología de descomposición estadística para describir en
forma coherente las dimensiones del empleo femenino según la estructura del mercado
laboral y según la estructura productiva de las ciudades. La metodología se utiliza
para analizar el empleo femenino “pleno y decente” en 23 ciudades colombianas entre
2008 y 2016. Según la estructura laboral, se encuentra que la brecha de género en el
empleo pleno y decente se debe a diferencias en la participación laboral y en la
formalidad del empleo, más que a diferencias entre hombres y mujeres en el desempleo
o en la dedicación al empleo. Según la estructura productiva, se encuentra que la
orientación por sexo y la composición del empleo sectorial de las ciudades tienen
influencia modesta en las diferencias entre ciudades en la generación de empleo
femenino pleno y decente, ya que éstas resultan sobre todo de las diferencias en la
capacidad de generación de para ambos sexos. La metodología también se usa para
analizar los cambios en el período. Se sugieren posibles extensiones de la metodología
propuesta e implicaciones para futuras investigaciones.
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Female Employment in Colombian Cities: A Method of Statistical Description

This paper proposes a methodology of statistical decomposition to describe in a
coherent way the dimensions of female employment according to the structure of the
labor market and according to the productive structure of cities. The methodology is
used to analyze "full and decent" female employment in 23 Colombian cities between
2008 and 2016. According to the labor structure, it is found that the gender gap in full
and decent employment is due to differences in labor participation and in the
formality of employment, rather than differences between men and women in
unemployment or dedication to employment. According to the productive structure, it
is found that the orientation by sex and the composition of sectoral employment in
cities have a modest influence on the differences between cities in the generation of full
and decent female employment, since these are mainly the result of differences in
cities’ capacities to generate employment for both sexes. The methodology is also used
to analyze changes in the period. Potential extensions of the proposed methodology
and implications for future research are suggested.

Lora, E., 2019. Forecasting Formal Employment in Cities.Abstract
Can “full and productive employment for all” be achieved by 2030 as envisaged by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals? This paper assesses the issue for the largest 62 Colombian cities using social security administrative records between 2008 and 2015, which show that the larger the city, the higher its formal occupation rate. This is explained by the fact that formal employment creation is restricted by the availability of the diverse skills needed in complex sectors. Since skill accumulation is a gradual path-dependent process, future formal employment by city can be forecasted using either ordinary least square regression results or machine learning algorithms. The results show that the share of working population in formal employment will increase between 13 and nearly 32 percent points between 2015 and 2030, which is substantial but still insufficient to achieve the goal. Results are broadly consistent across methods for the larger cities, but not the smaller ones. For these, the machine learning method provides nuanced forecasts which may help further explorations into the relation between complexity and formal employment at the city level.
Abante, K., 2019. Minimizing Smuggling and Restoring Public Trust in the Philippine Bureau of Customs.Abstract
This policy analysis attempts to answer three questions: First, what is the extent of smuggling and customs tax evasion in the Philippines? Second, how can customs improve its risk management system in the short term to minimize officers’ discretion and improve trade facilitation without abdicating its other mandates of revenue generation and border control? Third, what types of reforms and political commitment are necessary in the long term to restore public trust in the Bureau of Customs?
Stock, D., 2019. Exit and Foreign Ownership: Evidence from Export-Oriented Firms in Sri Lanka.Abstract
While foreign direct investment may play a transformative role in the development of economies, foreign-owned firms are also said to be more “footloose” than comparable local firms. This paper uses a semi-parametric approach to examine the link between firm ownership and exit rates, tracking a set of export-oriented firms operating in Sri Lanka in years between 1978 and 2017. We find that foreign firms are in fact 42-56% more likely to exit than local firms, but only for their first years of existence. In their later years, foreign firms are actually less likely to exit than local firms, though this late advantage is not statistically significant when conditioned on the firms’ initial characteristics (such as employment size). This pattern supports the theory that foreign firms face a steeper early learning curve in adapting to local conditions.
Bustos, S. & Morales, J.R., 2019. Globalization and Protectionism: AMLO’s 2006 Presidential Run.Abstract
We study the effects of local tariff drops for Mexican exports to the US on the local electoral performance of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in Mexico’s 2006 presidential election. In an effort to appeal to his rural base, AMLO proposed to unilaterally retain tariff exemptions on imported corn and beans, which were scheduled to drop under NAFTA by the end of 2008. This elevated protectionism in the public agenda during the campaign. We find that local economic gains due to export tariff drops under NAFTA between 1994 and 2001 led to a drop in AMLO’s local vote share gains in 2006. These effects are contingent to the 2006 election, as similar effects on local vote for the left are not found in previous or later elections. Results are robust to controls for local grain growing and Chinese competition. We predict that AMLO would have been elected in 2006 had protectionism not been a salient electoral issue. Our findings suggest export access gains due to globalization undermine local political preferences over national protectionist platforms.
Bustos, S. & Yıldırım, M.A., 2019. Production Ability and Economic Growth.Abstract
Production is shaped by capability requirements of products and availability of these capabilities across locations. We propose a capabilities based production model and an empirical strategy to measure product sophistication and location’s production ability. We apply our framework to international trade data, and employment data in the US, recovering measures of production ability for countries and cities, and 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 measures like education and training needed in the industry. Our model-based estimations also predict the diversification patterns through the extensive margin.
Gorrín, J., A., J.R.M. & Ricca, B., 2019. The Impact of the Mexican Drug War on Trade.Abstract
This paper studies the unintended economic consequences of increases in violence following the Mexican Drug War. We study the effects on exports in municipalities with different levels of exposure to violence after the policy. A focus on exports allows us to control for demand shocks by comparing exports of the same product to the same country of destination. Building on the close elections identification strategy proposed by Dell (2015), we show that municipalities that are exogenously exposed to the Drug War experience a 40% decrease in export growth on the in- tensive margin. Large exporters suffer larger effects, along with exports of more complex, capital intensive, and skill intensive products. Finally, using firm level data, we provide evidence consistent with violence increasing marginal exporting costs.
Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Tabasco: Diagnóstico de Crecimiento.Abstract

Since 2003, the GDP per capita of Tabasco has consistently figured among the 4 largest in the country. However, this level of economic activity has not translated into an equally favorable performance in other social welfare metrics. According to CONEVAL, the Tabasco poverty rate in 2016 was 50.9%, seven percentage points higher than the national rate (43.6%). On the other hand, the average monthly income of the workers of the state is in the 40th percentile of all the states.

This discrepancy can be explained because the mining activity, despite accumulating only 3% of jobs, represents more than 50% of the state's GDP. If we only consider non-oil GDP, we have that the GDP per capita of the state has tended to be located around the country's median, and for 2016 it was in the 30th percentile nationwide.

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Tabasco: Reporte de Complejidad Ecónomica.Abstract

Este estudio busca identificar las capacidades productivas de Tabasco a partir de un análisis de la composición de sus exportaciones y su empleo basándose en la perspectiva de la complejidad económica. Asimismo, busca identificar productos potenciales que requieran una base de conocimientos productivos similar a la que ya tiene Tabasco y que le permita mejorar su complejidad económica actual y prospectiva.

Para tales efectos, primero se explora la evolución en el tiempo del valor de las exportaciones de Tabasco y la composición de las mismas, así como de los principales productos de exportación. En sentido, se tiene que las exportaciones de Tabasco están determinadas por el sector petrolero. Los envíos de petróleo representan alrededor del 97% de las exportaciones estatales y explican más del 90% del aumento de las exportaciones de la última década.

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Tabasco: Diagnóstico Industrial.Abstract

En este estudio se consideraron los productos priorizados en el Reporte de Complejidad Económica de Tabasco y se procedió a evaluar su potencial a partir de un conjunto de consideraciones de mercado. Luego, se agregó el potencial de cada producto en distintas colecciones de producto, y se seleccionó una industria cuya estimulación y desarrollo constituya una apuesta de desarrollo prometedora el estado. Respecto de éste se detallaron algunas estadísticas generales como una forma de evaluar su potencial de crecimiento e impacto para la economía local, estatal y nacional.

Para el objeto de este estudio, el sector industrial escogido para el análisis de cuellos de botella fue el de “Químicos” y, más puntualmente, los productos: “Agentes de limpieza orgánicos (ex. Jabón)”, “Aprestos y aceleradores de tintura”, “Mezclas de sustancias odoríferas”, “Placas fotográficas” y “Tinta”. El desarrollo de esta colección de productos representa una importante oportunidad, la que, a la fecha, los productores mexicanos no han podido aprovechar del todo. Sin embargo, estos productos han presentado un gran dinamismo dentro de México en los años recientes. Entre 2004 y 2014, las exportaciones de México en estos productos se han duplicado, el empleo en los sectores asociados a estos productos ha aumentado un 20%, y el salario promedio en estos sectores ha aumentado entre 40% y 50%.

Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Tabasco: Insumos para el desarrollo de recomendaciónes.Abstract
En este documento se presentaron una serie de insumos para el desarrollo de políticas para Tabasco, que apuntan a la estructuración de una estrategia de transformación productiva que le permita al estado revertir la tendencia adversa de los últimos años y promover una senda de crecimiento sostenido. Asimismo, este documento buscó consolidar los principales hallazgos de las investigaciones que hicieron parte del proyecto “Diseño de estrategias de transformación productiva para Tabasco.