Product Space

Schetter, U., 2022. A Measure of Countries’ Distance to Frontier Based on Comparative Advantage.Abstract
This paper presents a structural ranking of countries by their distance to frontier. The ranking is based on comparative advantage. Hence, it reveals information on the productive capabilities of countries that is fundamentally different from GDP per capita. The ranking is centered on the assumption that countries’ capabilities across products are similar to those of other countries with comparable distance to frontier. It can be micro-founded using standard trade models. The estimation strategy provides a general, non-parametric approach to uncovering a log-supermodular structure from the data, and I use it to also derive a structural ranking of products by their complexity. The underlying theory provides a fexible micro-foundation for the Economic Complexity Index (Hidalgo and Hausmann, 2009).
Diodato, D., Hausmann, R. & Schetter, U., 2022. A Simple Theory of Economic Development at the Extensive Industry Margin.Abstract
We revisit the well-known fact that richer countries tend to produce a larger variety of goods and analyze economic development through (export) diversifcation. We show that countries are more likely to enter ‘nearby’ industries, i.e., industries that require fewer new occupations. To rationalize this finding, we develop a small open economy (SOE) model of economic development at the extensive industry margin. In our model, industries differ in their input requirements of non-tradeable occupations or tasks. The SOE grows if profit maximizing frms decide to enter new, more advanced industries, which requires training workers in all occupations that are new to the economy. As a consequence, the SOE is more likely to enter nearby industries in line with our motivating fact. We provide indirect evidence in support of our main mechanism and then discuss implications: We show that there may be multiple equilibria along the development path, with some equilibria leading on a pathway to prosperity while others resulting in an income trap, and discuss implications for industrial policy. We finally show that the rise of China has a non-monotonic effect on the growth prospects of other developing countries, and provide suggestive evidence for this theoretical prediction.
Hidalgo, C.A., et al., 2007. The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations. Science , 317 (5837) , pp. 482-487. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Economies grow by upgrading the products they produce and export. The technology, capital, institutions, and skills needed to make newer products are more easily adapted from some products than from others. Here, we study this network of relatedness between products, or “product space,” finding that more-sophisticated products are located in a densely connected core whereas less-sophisticated products occupy a less-connected periphery. Empirically, countries move through the product space by developing goods close to those they currently produce. Most countries can reach the core only by traversing empirically infrequent distances, which may help explain why poor countries have trouble developing more competitive exports and fail to converge to the income levels of rich countries.
Hausmann, R. & Hidalgo, C.A., 2008. A Network View of Economic Development. Developing Alternatives , 12 (1) , pp. 5-10. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Does the type of product a country exports matter for subsequent economic performance? To take an example from the 19th-century economist David Ricardo, does it matter if Britain specializes in cloth and Portugal in wine for the subsequent development of either country? The seminal texts of development economics held that it does matter, suggesting that industrialization creates externalities that lead to accelerated growth (Rosenstein-Rodan 1943; Hirschman 1958; Matsuyama 1992). Yet, lacking formal models, mainstream economic theory has made little of these ideas. Instead, current dominant theories use two approaches to explain countries’ patterns of specialization.
Economic Development and the Accumulation of Know-how
Hausmann, R., 2016. Economic Development and the Accumulation of Know-how. Welsh Economic Review , 24 , pp. 13-16. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Economic development depends on the accumulation of know-how. The theory of economic growth has long emphasised the importance of something called technical progress, but what that is, and how it grows has not been well elucidated. Technical progress is really based on three separate aspects: tools, or embodied knowledge, recipes or blueprints or codified knowledge and know-how or tacit knowledge. While tools can be shipped and codes can be e-mailed, know-how exists only as a particular wiring of the brain and as such it is hard to move around. That is why the growth of know-how can easily become the binding constraint on the development process.
Goldstein, P., 2020. Pathways for Productive Diversification in Ethiopia, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

Ethiopia will need to increase the diversity of its export basket to guarantee a sustainable growth path. Ethiopia has shown stellar growth performance throughout the last two decades, but, in this period, export growth has been insufficient to finance the country’s balance of payments needs. As argued in our Growth Diagnostic report,1 Ethiopia’s growth decelerated as a result of the increasing external imbalances which have resulted in a foreign exchange constraint. This macroeconomic imbalance is now slowing the rate of economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation across the country. Although export growth will not be rapid enough to address the foreign exchange constraint on its own in the short-term, the only way for the country to achieve macroeconomic balance as it grows in the longer term is to increase its exports per capita. With only limited opportunities to expand its exports on the intensive margin, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) will have to strategically support the diversification of its economy to expand its exports base.

This report applies the theory of Economic Complexity in order to describe the base of productive knowhow and assess the opportunities and constraints to diversification in Ethiopia’s economy. The theory of Economic Complexity offers tools to capture and quantitatively estimate the diversity and sophistication of productive knowhow in an economy and to analyze the potential to develop comparative advantage in new industries. These tools provide valuable inputs for informing diversification strategies and the use of state resources by providing rigorous information on the risks and potential returns of government industrial policies in support of different sectors.

Introducing the Atlas of Economic Complexity's Country Profiles

The creators of the Atlas of Economic Complexity - Harvard Growth Lab’s free online tool that translates economic growth research into policy actions to expand global prosperity - are proud to introduce: Country Profiles, a first-of-its-kind platform that revolutionizes how to think about economic strategy, policy, and investment opportunities for over 130 countries. Country Profiles invite users to take an interactive, step-by-step journey to analyze a country’s economic dynamics and future...

Read more about Introducing the Atlas of Economic Complexity's Country Profiles

Southeast Asia Surging in CID's New Global Growth Projections

May 3, 2018

Researchers at Harvard’s Center for International Development Also Identify Five Economies to Watch

Cambridge, Massachusetts – Countries that have diversified their economies into more complex sectors, like India and Vietnam, are those that will grow the fastest in the coming decade. That is the conclusion of new growth projections presented by researchers at the Center for International Development at Harvard University...

Read more about Southeast Asia Surging in CID's New Global Growth Projections
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.
The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity
Hausmann, R., et al., 2013. The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity 2nd ed., Cambridge: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

From the foreword:

It has been two years since we published the first edition of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. "The Atlas," as we have come to refer to it, has helped extend the availability of tools and methods that can be used to study the productive structure of countries and its evolution.

Many things have happened since the first edition of The Atlas was released at CID's Global Empowerment Meeting, on October 27, 2011. The new edition has sharpened the theory and empirical evidence of how knowhow affects income and growth and how knowhow itself grows over time. In this edition, we also update our numbers to 2010, thus adding two more years of data and extending our projections. We also undertook a major overhaul of the data. Sebastián Bustos and Muhammed Yildirim went back to the original sources and created a new dataset that significantly improves on the one used for the 2011 edition. They developed a new technique to clean the data, reducing inconsistencies and the problems caused by misreporting. The new dataset provides a more accurate estimate of the complexity of each country and each product. With this improved dataset, our results are even stronger.

All in all, the new version of The Atlas provides a more accurate picture of each country’s economy, its "adjacent possible" and its future growth potential.

For up-to-date datasets and new visualizations, visit atlas.cid.harvard.edu.

 

The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity
Hausmann, R., et al., 2011. The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity,Abstract

Over the past two centuries, mankind has accomplished what used to be unthinkable. When we look back at our long list of achievements, it is easy to focus on the most audacious of them, such as our conquest of the skies and the moon. Our lives, however, have been made easier and more prosperous by a large number of more modest, yet crucially important feats. Think of electric bulbs, telephones, cars, personal computers, antibiotics, TVs, refrigerators, watches and water heaters. Think of the many innovations that benefit us despite our minimal awareness of them, such as advances in port management, electric power distribution, agrochemicals and water purification. This progress was possible because we got smarter. During the past two centuries, the amount of productive knowledge we hold expanded dramatically. This was not, however, an individual phenomenon. It was a collective phenomenon. As individuals we are not much more capable than our ancestors, but as societies we have developed the ability to make all that we have mentioned – and much, much more.

For up-to-date datasets and new visualizations, visit atlas.cid.harvard.edu.

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