Growth Lab logoLed by Ricardo Hausmann, the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development works to understand the dynamics of growth and to translate those insights into more effective policymaking in developing countries. The Growth Lab places increased economic diversity and complexity at the center of the development story. Learn more about us.


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In response to COVID-19, Growth Lab Director Ricardo Hausman brought together a task force, including members of our academic and applied research teams, to support our project counterparts worldwide. This team worked quickly to understand the dynamics of the virus by connecting with experts across Harvard University.

Our team has shared new insights and offered strategic guidance on economic and epidemiological policy decisions with project counterparts in Albania, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Namibia, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia. In addition, the team has been responding to requests from other governments around the world to share its learnings. Read more.




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Growth Lab faculty and fellows engage in theoretical and empirical research on the determinants of growth and its social, political, and environmental sustainability. Our four core research agendas:

Complexity Node

Economic Complexity & The Product Space

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Growth Diagnostics

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Inclusive Growth

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Skills & Human Capital

The Product Space


Recent Publications

Bridging the short-term and long-term dynamics of economic structural change

McNerney, J., et al., 2021. Bridging the short-term and long-term dynamics of economic structural change.Abstract
In the short-term, economies shift preferentially into new activities that are related to ones they currently do. Such a tendency should have implications for the nature of an economy’s long-term development as well. We explore these implications using a dynamical network model of an economy’s movement into new activities. First, we theoretically derive a pair of coordinates that summarize long-term structural change. One coordinate captures overall ability across activities, the other captures an economy’s composition. Second, we show empirically how these two measures intuitively summarize a variety of facts of long-term economic development. Third, we observe that our measures resemble complexity metrics, though our route to these metrics differs significantly from previous ones. In total, our framework represents a dynamical approach that bridges short-and long-term descriptions of structural change, and suggests how different branches of economic complexity analysis could potentially fit together in one framework.
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New Avenues for Colombia’s Internationalization: Trade in Tasks

Hausmann, R. & Bustos, S., 2021. New Avenues for Colombia’s Internationalization: Trade in Tasks.Abstract

One of the consequences of COVID-19 is the recognition that many tasks can be done from home. But anything that can done remotely, can be done from abroad.

Given large salary differences between white collar workers across countries, it would make sense for value chains to try to exploit them. This opens an opportunity for Colombia to further promote its integration into the world global value chains and access new markets.

This paper explores the possibility of exporting teleworkable services from Colombia. The goal is to provide useful information to guide strategic interventions to speed-up the development of such service industries in Colombia.

We first introduce a definition of teleworkable jobs and describe its occupations and industries along different dimensions. We show that there are many teleworkable jobs in the US, representing a significant share of industry costs. Then, we show that many industries intensive in teleworkable jobs are currently traded across borders. To quantify Colombia’s advantage providing teleworkable services, we study the cost structure of industries and quantify the potential savings in overall costs if the tasks were performed by Colombians. Given Colombia’s current presence and the density around teleworkable industries we can calculate a proxy of the latent advantage in teleworkable services. We propose an index that summarize these dimensions and rank the potential gains from including telework from Colombia in an industry. We end with a set of policy recommendations to move this agenda forward.

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Diagnosing Human Capital as a Binding Constraint to Growth: Tests, Symptoms and Prescriptions

Diagnosing Human Capital as a Binding Constraint to Growth: Tests, Symptoms and Prescriptions
Santos, M.A. & Hani, F., 2021. Diagnosing Human Capital as a Binding Constraint to Growth: Tests, Symptoms and Prescriptions. Cambridge University Press: Elements in the Economics of Emerging Markets. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The empirical literature on the contributions of human capital investments to economic growth shows mixed results. While evidence from OECD countries demonstrates that human capital accumulation is associated with growth accelerations, the substantial efforts of developing countries to improve access to and quality of education, as a means for skill accumulation, did not translate into higher income per capita. In this Element, we propose a framework, building on the principles of 'growth diagnostics', to enable practitioners to determine whether human capital investments are a priority for a country's growth strategy. We then discuss and exemplify different tests to diagnose human capital in a place, drawing on the Harvard Growth Lab's experience in different development context, and discuss various policy options to address skill shortages.


Cambridge Elements are a new concept in academic publishing and scholarly communication, combining the best features of books and journals. They consist of original, concise, authoritative, and peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific research, organised into focused series edited by leading scholars, and provide comprehensive coverage of the key topics in disciplines spanning the arts and sciences.

Regularly updated and conceived from the start for a digital environment, they provide a dynamic reference resource for graduate students, researchers, and practitioners.

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Estimating the drivers of urban economic complexity and their connection to economic performance

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.
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Upcoming Events

2022 Jan 31

Research Seminar: Innovation Networks and Innovation Policy

10:15am to 11:30am


Zoom (registration information below)

Speaker: Ernest Liu, Assistant Professor of Economics at the Bendheim Center for Finance in Princeton's Department of Economics

Paper: Innovation Networks and Innovation Policy

Abstract: We study the optimal allocation of R&D resources in an...

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2022 Feb 01

Book Talk - Reclaiming Populism: How Economic Fairness Can Win Back Disenchanted Voters

12:00pm to 1:15pm


Zoom (registration information below)

Book coverReclaiming Populism contends that populist upheavals like Trump, Brexit, and the Gilets Jaunes happen when the system really is rigged. Citizens the world over are angry not due to immigration or income inequality, but economic unfairness:...

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