North America

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.
Hausmann, R. & Sturzenegger, F., 2007. The Valuation of Hidden Assets in Foreign Transactions: Why 'Dark Matter' Matters. Business Economics , 42 (1) , pp. 28-34. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper clarifies how the valuation of hidden assets—what we call “dark matter”—changes our assessment of the U.S. external imbalance. Dark matter assets are defined as the capitalized value of the return privilege obtained by U.S. 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 U.S. current accounts, the U.S. external position looks much more balanced than depicted in official statistics.
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.
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
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.
Kosack, S., et al., 2018. Functional structures of US state governments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Governments in modern societies undertake an array of complex functions that shape politics and economics, individual and group behavior, and the natural, social, and built environment. How are governments structured to execute these diverse responsibilities? How do those structures vary, and what explains the differences? To examine these longstanding questions, we develop a technique for mapping Internet “footprint” of government with network science methods. We use this approach to describe and analyze the diversity in functional scale and structure among the 50 US state governments reflected in the webpages and links they have created online: 32.5 million webpages and 110 million hyperlinks among 47,631 agencies. We first verify that this extensive online footprint systematically reflects known characteristics: 50 hierarchically organized networks of state agencies that scale with population and are specialized around easily identifiable functions in accordance with legal mandates. We also find that the footprint reflects extensive diversity among these state functional hierarchies. We hypothesize that this variation should reflect, among other factors, state income, economic structure, ideology, and location. We find that government structures are most strongly associated with state economic structures, with location and income playing more limited roles. Voters’ recent ideological preferences about the proper roles and extent of government are not significantly associated with the scale and structure of their state governments as reflected online. We conclude that the online footprint of governments offers a broad and comprehensive window on how they are structured that can help deepen understanding of those structures.

Visualizations and datasets available on project website >>

 

Patterson-Lomba, O. & Gomez-Lievano, A., 2018. On the Scaling Patterns of Infectious Disease Incidence in Cities.Abstract
Urban areas with larger and more connected populations offer an auspicious environment for contagion processes such as the spread of pathogens. Empirical evidence reveals a systematic increase in the rates of certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with larger urban population size. However, the main drivers of these systemic infection patterns are still not well understood, and rampant urbanization rates worldwide makes it critical to advance our understanding on this front. Using confirmed-cases data for three STDs in US metropolitan areas, we investigate the scaling patterns of infectious disease incidence in urban areas. The most salient features of these patterns are that, on average, the incidence of infectious diseases that transmit with less ease– either because of a lower inherent transmissibility or due to a less suitable environment for transmission– scale more steeply with population size, are less predictable across time and more variable across cities of similar size. These features are explained, first, using a simple mathematical model of contagion, and then through the lens of a new theory of urban scaling. These frameworks help us reveal the links between the factors that determine the transmissibility of infectious diseases and the properties of their scaling patterns across cities.
The Exposure of U.S. Manufacturing Industries to Exchange Rates
Thorbecke, W., 2018. The Exposure of U.S. Manufacturing Industries to Exchange Rates. International Review of Economics and Finance. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Safe asset demand and currency manipulation increase the dollar and the U.S. current account deficit. Deficits in manufacturing trade cause dislocation and generate protectionism. Dynamic OLS results indicate that U.S. export elasticities exceed unity for automobiles, toys, wood, aluminum, iron, steel, and other goods. Elasticities for U.S. imports from China are close to one or higher for footwear, radios, sports equipment, lamps, and watches and exceed 0.5 for iron, steel, aluminum, miscellaneous manufacturing, and metal tools. Elasticities for U.S. imports from other countries are large for electrothermal appliances, radios, furniture, lamps, miscellaneous manufacturing, aluminum, automobiles, plastics, and other categories. Stock returns on many of these sectors also fall when the dollar appreciates. Several manufacturing industries are thus exposed to a strong dollar. Policymakers could weaken the dollar and deflect protectionist pressure by promoting the euro, the yen, and the renminbi as alternative reserve currencies.
Thornbecke, W., 2018. The Exposure of U.S. Manufacturing Industries to Exchange Rates.Abstract
Safe asset demand and currency manipulation increase the dollar and the U.S. current account deficit. Deficits in manufacturing trade cause dislocation and generate protectionism. Dynamic OLS results indicate that U.S. export elasticities exceed unity for automobiles, toys, wood, aluminum, iron, steel, and other goods. Elasticities for U.S. imports from China are close to one or higher for footwear, radios, sports equipment, lamps, and watches and exceed 0.5 for iron, steel, aluminum, miscellaneous manufacturing, and metal tools. Elasticities for U.S. imports from other countries are large for electrothermal appliances, radios, furniture, lamps, miscellaneous manufacturing, aluminum, automobiles, plastics, and other categories. For U.S. exports and especially for U.S. imports from China, trade in more sophisticated products are less sensitive to exchange rates. Stock returns on many of the sectors with high export and import elasticities also fall when the dollar appreciates. Several manufacturing industries are thus exposed to a strong dollar. Policymakers could weaken the dollar and deflect protectionist pressure by promoting the euro, the yen, and the renminbi as alternative reserve currencies.
 
What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States
Chauvin, J.P., et al., 2017. What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States. Journal of Urban Economics , 98 (March 2017) , pp. 17-49. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Are the well-known facts about urbanization in the United States also true for the developing world? We compare American metropolitan areas with analogous geographic units in Brazil, China and India. Both Gibrat’s Law and Zipf’s Law seem to hold as well in Brazil as in the U.S., but China and India look quite different. In Brazil and China, the implications of the spatial equilibrium hypothesis, the central organizing idea of urban economics, are not rejected. The India data, however, repeatedly rejects tests inspired by the spatial equilibrium assumption. One hypothesis is that spatial equilibrium only emerges with economic development, as markets replace social relationships and as human capital spreads more widely. In all four countries there is strong evidence of agglomeration economies and human capital externalities. The correlation between density and earnings is stronger in both China and India than in the U.S., strongest in China. In India the gap between urban and rural wages is huge, but the correlation between city size and earnings is more modest. The cross-sectional relationship between area-level skills and both earnings and area-level growth are also stronger in the developing world than in the U.S. The forces that drive urban success seem similar in the rich and poor world, even if limited migration and difficult housing markets make it harder for a spatial equilibrium to develop.
Gomez-Lievano, A., Patterson-Lomba, O. & Hausmann, R., 2016. Explaining the Prevalence, Scaling and Variance of Urban Phenomena.Abstract

The prevalence of many urban phenomena changes systematically with population size1. We propose a theory that unifies models of economic complexity2, 3 and cultural evolution4 to derive urban scaling. The theory accounts for the difference in scaling exponents and average prevalence across phenomena, as well as the difference in the variance within phenomena across cities of similar size. The central ideas are that a number of necessary complementary factors must be simultaneously present for a phenomenon to occur, and that the diversity of factors is logarithmically related to population size. The model reveals that phenomena that require more factors will be less prevalent, scale more superlinearly and show larger variance across cities of similar size. The theory applies to data on education, employment, innovation, disease and crime, and it entails the ability to predict the prevalence of a phenomenon across cities, given information about the prevalence in a single city.

This paper is published in the journal, Nature: Human Behavior.

Explaining the prevalence, scaling and variance of urban phenomena
Gomez-Lievano, A., Patterson-Lomba, O. & Hausmann, R., 2016. Explaining the prevalence, scaling and variance of urban phenomena. Nature Human Behavior. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The prevalence of many urban phenomena changes systematically with population size1 . We propose a theory that unifies models of economic complexity2,3 and cultural evolution4 to derive urban scaling. The theory accounts for the difference in scaling exponents and average prevalence across phenomena, as well as the difference in the variance within phenomena across cities of similar size. The central ideas are that a number of necessary complementary factors must be simultaneously present for a phenomenon to occur, and that the diversity of factors is logarithmically related to population size. The model reveals that phenomena that require more factors will be less prevalent, scale more superlinearly and show larger variance across cities of similar size. The theory applies to data on education, employment, innovation, disease and crime, and it entails the ability to predict the prevalence of a phenomenon across cities, given information about the prevalence in a single city.

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Russell, S., Barrios, D. & Andrews, M., 2016. Getting the Ball Rolling: Basis for Assessing the Sports Economy.Abstract

Data on the sports economy is often difficult to interpret, far from transparent, or simply unavailable. Data fraught with weaknesses causes observers of the sports economy to account for the sector differently, rendering their analyses difficult to compare or causing them to simply disagree. Such disagreement means that claims regarding the economic spillovers of the industry can be easily manipulated or exaggerated. Thoroughly accounting for the industry is therefore an important initial step in assessing the economic importance of sports-related activities. For instance, what do policymakers mean when they discuss sports-related economic activities? What activities are considered part of the "sports economy?" What are the difficulties associated with accounting for these activities? Answering these basic questions allows governments to improve their policies.

The paper below assesses existing attempts to understand the sports economy and proposes a more nuanced way to consider the industry. Section 1 provides a brief overview of existing accounts of the sports economy. We first differentiate between three types of assessments: market research accounts conducted by consulting groups, academic accounts written by scholars, and structural accounts initiated primarily by national statistical agencies. We then discuss the European Union’s (EU) recent work to better account for and understand the sports economy. Section 2 describes the challenges constraining existing accounts of the sports economy. We describe two major constraints - measurement challenges and definition challenges - and highlight how the EU's work has attempted to address them. We conclude that, although the Vilnius Definition improves upon previous accounts, it still features areas for improvement.

Section 3 therefore proposes a paradigm shift with respect to how we understand the sports economy. Instead of primarily inquiring about the size of the sports economy, the approach recognizes the diversity of sports-related economic activities and of relevant dimensions of analysis. It therefore warns against attempts at aggregation before there are better data and more widely agreed upon definitions of the sports economy. It asks the following questions: How different are sports-related sectors? Are fitness facilities, for instance, comparable to professional sports clubs in terms of their production scheme and type of employment? Should they be understood together or treated separately? We briefly explore difference in sports-related industry classifications using data from the Netherlands, Mexico, and the United States. Finally, in a short conclusion, we discuss how these differences could be more fully explored in the future, especially if improvements are made with respect to data disaggregation and standardization.

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