Economic Complexity

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. Baja California: Reporte de Complejidad Económica.Abstract
En el Diagnóstico de Crecimiento de Baja California se describieron las principales tendencias recientes del desempeño económico del estado. En esta subsección se resumen los principales hallazgos de dicho reporte, a modo de motivación para este estudio1. Baja California se ha ubicado consistentemente entre los estados más prósperos de México. Sin embargo, también destaca por presentar uno de los crecimientos más volátiles. La entidad fue la de menor crecimiento no-petrolero entre las 32 del país entre 2003-2010, sin embargo, desde entonces, ha crecido por encima de la media del país y a la par de otras entidades fronterizas. ¿Por qué la economía de Baja California ha presentado un desempeño más volátil? ¿Qué elementos propiciaron un ciclo de colapso y recuperación más acentuado que en otros lugares comparables? ¿Cuáles son las condiciones locales que amplifican la vulnerabilidad del estado y lo dejan más expuesto a crisis externas?
Ravinutala, S., Gomez-Lievano, A. & Lora, E., 2017. How Industry-Related Capabilities Affect Export Possibilities, Cambridge: Center for International Development at Harvard University.Abstract

The central question we will explore in this document is: Can we anticipate the opportunities that Colombian cities have to export specific products based on their existing productive capabilities?

In the following pages, we report a collection of results, analyses, and advances in which we assess how industry-related capabilities affect export possibilities. Our final goal will be to create a single measure that synthesizes all the knowledge and existing information about the productive capabilities of each city, both “horizontal” and “vertical”, and that quantifies how competitive a city can be if it aims at exporting a given product it does not yet export.

This document is broken in two main efforts: First, we want to understand the “mechanics” of diversification processes. And second, we want to be able to provide recommendations of products that are not produced in cities, but should be. The first effort requires a multitude of analyses, each trying to describe the characteristics of firms, of cities, and of the mechanisms that expand the export baskets of places. The second effort requires the development of a statistical model that is accurate when predicting the appearances of products in cities. These two efforts, explaining and predicting, are complementary, but different.

Explanations that lack the power of accurately predicting the future are useless in practice; predictions of phenomena for which we lack understanding are dangerous. But together they provide a unified story that can inform policy decisions.

Hausmann, R., Pietrobelli, C. & Santos, M.A., 2018. Place-specific Determinants of Income Gaps: New Sub-National Evidence from Chiapas, Mexico.Abstract

The literature on income gaps between Chiapas and the rest of Mexico revolves around individual factors, such as education and ethnicity. Yet, twenty years after the Zapatista rebellion, the schooling gap between Chiapas and the other Mexican entities has shrunk while the income gap has widened, and we find no evidence indicating that Chiapas indigenes are worse-off than their likes elsewhere in Mexico. We explore a different hypothesis. Based on census data, we calculate the economic complexity index, a measure of the knowledge agglomeration embedded in the economic activities at a municipal level in Mexico. Economic complexity explains a larger fraction of the income gap than any individual factor. Our results suggest that chiapanecos are not the problem, the problem is Chiapas. These results hold when we extend our analysis to Mexico’s thirty-one federal entities, suggesting that place-specific determinants that have been overlooked in both the literature and policy, have a key role in the determination of income gaps.


One more resource curse: Dutch disease and export concentration
Bahar, D. & Santos, M., 2018. One more resource curse: Dutch disease and export concentration. Journal of Development Economics , 132 (May 2018) , pp. 102-114. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Economists have long discussed the negative effect of Dutch disease episodes on the non-resource tradable sector as a whole, but little has been said on its impact on the composition of the non-resource export sector. This paper fills this gap by exploring to what extent concentration of a country's non-resource export basket is determined by their exports of natural resources. We present a theoretical framework that shows how upward pressure in wages caused by a resource windfall results in higher export concentration. We then document two robust empirical findings consistent with the theory. First, using data on discovery of oil and gas fields and of commodity prices as sources of exogenous variation, we find that countries with larger shares of natural resources in exports have more concentrated non-resource export baskets. Second, we find capital-intensive exports tend to dominate the export basket of countries prone to Dutch disease episodes.

Listen to the podcast interview with the authors

2016. Sri Lanka’s Edible Oils Exports.Abstract
By request of the Government of Sri Lanka, CID reviewed edible oils exports in September 2016 based on the latest available international trade data. The analysis identified the products and markets key to Sri Lanka’s edible oils sector and compared with competitor countries. Although edible oils are non-complex products that make up a small share of the country’s total exports (0.5% in 2014), they help to diversify Sri Lankan exports and may serve as stepping stones toward further diversification into other more complex exports in the future. Coconut oil, which made up 86% of Sri Lanka’s edible oils exports in 2014, is particularly promising, with exports growing by more than a factor of 10 in just five years and much room to grow based on global demand.
Malalgoda, C., Samaraweera, P. & Stock, D., 2018. Targeting Sectors For Investment and Export Promotion in Sri Lanka.Abstract

In August 2016, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Building State Capability program of CID convened five teams of civil servants, tasking them with solving issues related to investment and export promotion. One of these teams, the “Targeting Team,” took on the task of formulating and executing a plan to identify promising new economic activities for investment and export promotion in Sri Lanka. With the assistance of CID’s Growth Lab, the Targeting Team assembled and analyzed over 100 variables from 22 datasets, studying all tradable activities and 29 representative subsectors. Their analysis highlighted the potential of investment related to electronics, electrical equipment and machinery (including automotive products), as well as tourism. Ultimately, the team’s recommendations were incorporated in GoSL strategies for investment promotion, export development, and economic diplomacy; extensions of the research were also used to help plan new export processing zones and target potential anchor investors.

This report summarizes the methodology and findings of the Targeting Team, including scorecards for each of the sectors studied.


Authers’ Note: Turning and turning in the widening gyre

May 7, 2018

2026 Growth Projections in the Financial Times

Some parts of the world do not follow a cycle, but may actually enjoy secular growth over the next decade or so. The only problem is that you will need courage and a lot of due diligence to take advantage.

The latest edition of the Atlas of Economic Complexity by Harvard’s Center for International Development was published last week. It shows the countries best positioned to grow thanks to their networks of diverse and transferable skills. Their projected winners might provide some:

I strongly...

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These 5 Countries Expect Major Economic Growth for the Next Decade

October 15, 2017

Tim Cheston -

New research shows that the global economy is making a major turn toward rapid economic growth, and will continue trending in that direction over the coming years.

That’s according to the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University, which recently released their projections for the fast growing economies in the next decade. After analyzing global trade data from 2015 — the most recently available data — the CID concluded that the global economy trending upward.

So which countries are positioned to...

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New 2025 Global Growth Projections Predict China’s Further Slowdown and the Continued Rise of India

June 28, 2017

Cambridge, Massachusetts – The economic pole of global growth has moved over the past few years from China to neighboring India, where it is likely to stay over the coming decade, according to new growth projections presented by researchers at the Center for International Development at Harvard University (CID). Growth in emerging markets is predicted to continue to outpace that of advanced economies, though not uniformly. The projections are optimistic about new growth hubs in East Africa and new segments of Southeast Asia, led by Indonesia and Vietnam. The growth projections are based on measures of each country’s economic complexity, which captures the diversity and sophistication of the productive capabilities embedded in its exports and the ease with which it could further diversify by expanding those capabilities.

In examining the latest 2015 global trade data, CID researchers find a clear turn in trade winds, as 2015 marks the first year for which world exports have fallen since the 2009 global financial crisis. This time around, the decline in trade was driven largely by the fall in oil prices. High oil prices had driven a decade of rapid growth in oil economies, outpacing expectations. Since the decline in oil prices in mid 2014, growth in oil economies ground to a halt, where it is likely to stay, according to the projections, given little progress on diversification and complexity.... Read more about New 2025 Global Growth Projections Predict China’s Further Slowdown and the Continued Rise of India

Report: Uganda Among Fastest Growing Economies by 2025

July 5, 2017

Uganda will top the list on the fastest growing economies in the world by 2025 according to a report released by Harvard University Center for International Development (CID) last week. 
The Economic Complexity Global Growth Projections: Predicted Annual Growth Rate to 2025 shows that Uganda's economy will be growing at a 7.73 percent rate followed by India growing at a 7.72 percent. 


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O'Clery, N., 2016. A Tale of Two Clusters: The Evolution of Ireland’s Economic Complexity since 1995. Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland , XLV 2015-16 , pp. 16-66. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper characterizes the evolution of the manufacturing and industrial export structure of Ireland since 1995 within the framework of Economic Complexity and the Product Space. We observe a high level of specialisation in Ireland’s export structure, coupled with high income per capita as compared to the complexity level of its industrial activities (as captured by its Economic Complexity Index). We identify a dual structure within the economy, with domestic and foreign-owned exporters exhibiting distinct characteristics. In the latter case, we observe a recent consolidation and reduction in complexity level by the foreign-owned high tech pharmaceuticals and electronics sectors, with limited evidence of spill-overs leading to growth of domestic firms in these sectors. This contrasts with a dynamic and growing domestic food and agriculture sector, which is well positioned for continued expansion of Ireland’s indigenous activities into more complex goods. Finally, we illustrate this framework as a tool for policy-makers by identifying some potential new sectors that share many inputs with Ireland’s current domestic capability base, and could increase Ireland’s complexity level for future growth.

Fears South Africa Driving into Dead End Street

March 7, 2017

Ricardo Hausmann - Business Day

Ricardo Hausmann — Harvard development economist, former Venezuelan minister of planning and long-time friend and adviser to SA’s Treasury — visited SA last week and says he fears the country is heading towards making a mistake. He served on the International Panel on Growth, which provided a rich set of recommendations to the Treasury in 2008.

Looking back at their report, compiled by 20 of the world’s top economic thinkers from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it is distressing to see how determinedly that advice...

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O'Clery, N., Gomez-Lievano, A. & Lora, E., 2016. The Path to Labor Formality: Urban Agglomeration and the Emergence of Complex Industries.Abstract

Labor informality, associated with low productivity and lack of access to social security services, dogs developing countries around the world. Rates of labor (in)formality, however, vary widely within countries. This paper presents a new stylized fact, namely the systematic positive relationship between the rate of labor formality and the working age population in cities. We hypothesize that this phenomenon occurs through the emergence of complex economic activities: as cities become larger, labor is allocated into increasingly complex industries as firms combine complementary capabilities derived from a more diverse pool of workers. Using data from Colombia, we use a network-based model to show that the technological proximity (derived from worker transitions between industry pairs) of current industries in a city to potential new complex industries governs the growth of the formal sector in the city. The mechanism proposed has robust strong predictive power, and fares better than alternative explanations of (in)formality.