Faculty Working Papers

Hausmann, R., et al., 2014. Implied Comparative Advantage. CID Working Paper , 276.Abstract

The comparative advantage of a location shapes its industrial structure. Current theoretical models based on this principle do not take a stance on how comparative advantages in different industries or locations are related with each other, or what such patterns of relatedness might imply about the underlying process that governs the evolution of comparative advantage. We build a simple Ricardian-inspired model and show this hidden information on inter-industry and inter-location relatedness can be captured by simple correlations between the observed patterns of industries across locations or locations across industries. Using the information from related industries or related locations, we calculate the implied comparative advantage and show that this measure explains much of the location’s current industrial structure. We give evidence that these patterns are present in a wide variety of contexts, namely the export of goods (internationally) and the employment, payroll and number of establishments across the industries of subnational regions (in the US, Chile and India). The deviations between the observed and implied comparative advantage measures tend to be highly predictive of future industry growth, especially at horizons of a decade or more; this explanatory power holds at both the intensive as well as the extensive margin. These results suggest that a component of the long-term evolution of comparative advantage is already implied in today’s patterns of production.

Revised July 2020.
Hausmann, R., Dell’Erba, S. & Panizza, U., 2013. Debt Levels, Debt Composition, and Sovereign Spreads in Emerging and Advanced Economies.Abstract

This paper studies the relationship between sovereign spreads and the interaction between debt composition and debt levels in advanced and emerging market countries. It finds that in emerging market countries there is a significant correlation between spreads and debt levels. This correlation, however, is not statistically significant in countries where most public debt is denominated in local currency. In advanced economies, the magnitude of the correlation between debt levels and spreads is about one fifth of the corresponding correlation for emerging market economies. In Eurozone countries, however, the correlation between spreads and debt ratios is similar to that of emerging market countries. The paper also shows that the financial crisis amplified the relationship between spreads and debt levels within the Eurozone but had no effect on the relationship between spreads and debt in standalone countries. Finally, the paper shows that the relationship between debt levels and spreads is amplified by the presence of large net foreign liabilities. This amplifying effect of net foreign liabilities is larger in the Eurozone than in standalone advanced economies. The paper concludes that debt composition matters and corroborates the original sin hypothesis that, rather than being a mere reflection of institutional weaknesses, the presence of foreign currency debt increases financial fragility and leads to suboptimal macroeconomic policies.

Diwan, I., Gaddah, O. & Osire, R., 2013. Looking like an Industry: Supporting Commercial Agriculture in Africa.Abstract

It has long been known that countries only converge conditionally i.e. poor countries catch up with richer ones only if they adopt policies and institutions that are conducive to economic growth. Recently, Dani Rodrik (2011) has shown that manufacturing industries, unlike countries, converge unconditionally. We look at countries' performance in agriculture and find that agricultural productivity actually shows unconditional divergence (and like GDP, conditional converge). This means that agriculture very much behaves like a country and not like industry. We find however that many crops do converge unconditionally, like industry. The question we then ask is: how can we make particular sectors in agriculture more like an "industry" and less like a "country?" The paper argues that the solution lies in finding business models that provide capital and access to missing markets in an aggregated fashion, thus forming high-productivity islands of quality. We provide examples and a discussion of promising business models that do that.

Pritchett, L. & Kenny, C., 2013. Promoting Millennium Development Ideals: The Risks of Defining Development Down.Abstract

The approach of 2015, the target date of the Millennium Development Goals, sets the stage for a global reengagement on the question of "what is development?" We argue that the post-2015 development framework for development should include Millennium Development Ideals which put into measurable form the high aspirations countries have for the well-being of their citizens. Standing alone, low bar targets like the existing Millennium Development Goals "define development down" and put at risk both domestic and global coalitions to support to an inclusive development agenda. Measuring development progress exclusively by low bar targets creates the illusion that specific targeted programs can be an adequate substitute for a broad national and global development agenda.

Pritchett, L. & Viarengo, M., 2013. The State, Socialization, and Private Schooling: When Will Governments Support Alternative Producers?.Abstract

Understanding the institutional features that can improve learning outcomes and reduce inequality is a top priority for international and development organizations around the world. Economists appear to have a good case for support to non-governmental alternatives as suppliers of schooling. However, unlike other policy domains, freer international trade or privatization, economists have been remarkably unsuccessful in promoting the adoption of this idea. We develop a simple general positive model of why governments typically produce schooling which introduces the key notion of the lack of verifiability of socialization and instruction of beliefs, which makes third party contracting for socialization problematic. We use the model to explain variations around the world in levels of private schooling. We also predict the circumstances in which efforts to promote the different alternatives to government production – like charter, voucher, and scholarship - are likely to be successful.

Kremer, M. & Snyder, C., 2013. When is Prevention More Profitable than Cure? The Impact of Time-Varying Consumer Heterogeneity.Abstract

We argue that in pharmaceutical markets, variation in the arrival time of consumer heterogeneity creates differences between a producer’s ability to extract consumer surplus with preventives and treatments, potentially distorting R&D decisions. If consumers vary only in disease risk, revenue from treatments—sold after the disease is contracted, when disease risk is no longer a source of private information—always exceeds revenue from preventives. The revenue ratio can be arbitrarily high for sufficiently skewed distributions of disease risk. Under some circumstances, heterogeneity in harm from a disease, learned after a disease is contracted, can lead revenue from a treatment to exceed revenue from a preventative. Calibrations suggest that skewness in the U.S. distribution of HIV risk would lead firms to earn only half the revenue from a vaccine as from a drug. Empirical tests are consistent with the predictions of the model that vaccines are less likely to be developed for diseases with substantial disease-risk heterogeneity.

Diwan, I., 2013. Who are the Democrats? Leading Opinions in the Wake of Egypt's 2011 Popular Uprisings.Abstract

I look at changes in public opinion in Egypt, using the two waves of 2000 and 2008 of the World Value Survey. I find that during this period, there has been a major increase in popular support for democracy, a sizable rise in concerns about inequality, and a fall in support for political Islam. I examine the extent to which these changes are connected, and how they clustered along class, age, and education lines. The main findings are that while in 2000, younger Egyptians were more progressive than their parents, by 2008, Egyptian society had become much more organized around class interests and showed little inter-generational differentiation. New democrats come from all backgrounds, but with a concentration among those on the left. Among social classes, the middle class emerges as the main champion for democracy, driven by both aspiration and grievances motives

Torres, R.C., 2012. Capital and Labor Mobility and the Size of Sub-national Governments: Evidence from a Panel of Mexican States.Abstract

We examine in this paper the relation between government size and capital and labor openness employing a panel of the 32 Mexican states over the period 1996-2006. Making use of two alternative measures of capital and labor openness and employing several alternative econometric specifications, we first find systematic positive effects of our openness measures on the size of the states’ total government spending. Thereafter, we break down total government expenditure and focus on three subcategories of spending associated with social welfare: education, health and poverty alleviation programs. We find that FDI flows, our proxy for capital openness, are not significant determinants of the state’s social spending, but labor openness, in the form of international migration, has a significant and even greater impact on some of the aforementioned categories than on total spending.

Peters, P., 2012. Conflicts Over Land and Threats to Customary Tenure in Africa Today.Abstract

Issues swirling around land across Africa have never been so central to key social and political-economic dynamics as they are at the present time. The first part of the paper briefly reviews the construction of customary tenure and the historical phases of administrative interventions into land tenure, and considers their heritage in contemporary situations. The second part reviews the increasing competition and conflict centered on land; the increase in various types of land transfers that are implicated in the pervasive social conflict focused on land; and the associated rise in social inequality and contestation over belonging and citizenship. The third and final part discusses ‘land grabs’, the most recent surge of international interest in African land, and external and internal threats to ‘customary’ rights in land. The overall conclusion is that while relations around land have long been central to political economy, culture and society across the continent, their greater salience in intensifying struggles among actors within and from outside Africa has significance for the disposition of authority, property and citizenship.

Chekir, H. & Diwan, I., 2012. Crony Capitalism in Egypt.Abstract

The paper studies the nature and extent of Egyptian "crony" capitalism by comparing the corporate performance and the stock market valuation of politically connected and unconnected firms, before and after the 2011 popular uprising that led to the end of President Mubarak 30 years rule. First, we identify politically connected firms and conduct an event study around the events of 2011, as well as around previous events related to rumors about Mubarak’s health. We estimate the market valuation of political connections to be 20% to 23% of the value of connected firms. Second, we explore the mechanisms used for granting these privileges by looking at corporate behavior before 2011. It appears that these advantages allowed connected firms to increase their market size and power and their borrowings. We finally compare the performance of firms and find that the rate of return on assets of connected firms was lower than that of non-connected firms by nearly 3 percentage points. We argue that this indicates that the granting of privileges was not part of a successful industrial policy but instead, that it led to a large misallocation of capital towards less efficient firms, which together with reduced competition, led to lower economic growth.

*Formerly titled: Distressed Whales on the Nile - Egypt Capitalists in the Wake of the 2010 Revolution

Bustos, S., et al., 2012. The Dynamics of Nestedness Predicts the Evolution of Industrial Ecosystems.Abstract

Decades of research in ecology have shown that nestedness is a ubiquitous characteristic of both, biological and economic ecosystems. The dynamics of nestedness, however, have rarely been observed. Here we show that the nestedness of both, the network connecting countries to the products that they export and the network connecting municipalities to the industries that are present in them, remains constant over time. Moreover, we find that the conservation of nestedness is sustained by both, a bias for industries that deviate from the networks' nestedness to disappear, and a bias for the industries that are missing according to nestedness to appear. This makes the appearance and disappearance of individual industries in each location predictable. The conservation of nestedness in industrial ecosystems, and the predictability implied by it, demonstrates the importance of industrial ecosystems in the long term survival of economic activities.

Ashraf, Q.H., Weil, D.N. & Wilde, J., 2012. The Effect of Fertility Reduction on Economic Growth.Abstract

We assess quantitatively the effect of exogenous reductions in fertility on output per capita. Our simulation model allows for effects that run through schooling, the size and age structure of the population, capital accumulation, parental time input into child-rearing, and crowding of fixed natural resources. The model is parameterized using a combination of microeconomic estimates, data on demographics and natural resource income in developing countries, and standard components of quantitative macroeconomic theory. We apply the model to examine the effect of a change in fertility from the UN medium-variant to the UN low-variant projection, using Nigerian vital rates as a baseline. For a base case set of parameters, we find that such a change would raise output per capita by 5.6 percent at a horizon of 20 years, and by 11.9 percent at a horizon of 50 years.

Klimek, P., Hausmann, R. & Thurner, S., 2012. Empirical Confirmation of Creative Destruction from World Trade Data.Abstract

We show that world trade network datasets contain empirical evidence that the dynamics of innovation in the world economy follows indeed the concept of creative destruction, as proposed by J.A. Schumpeter more than half a century ago. National economies can be viewed as complex, evolving systems, driven by a stream of appearance and disappearance of goods and services. Products appear in bursts of creative cascades. We find that products systematically tend to co-appear, and that product appearances lead to massive disappearance events of existing products in the following years. The opposite – disappearances followed by periods of appearances – is not observed. This is an empirical validation of the dominance of cascading competitive replacement events on the scale of national economies, i.e. creative destruction. We find a tendency that more complex products drive out less complex ones, i.e. progress has a direction. Finally we show that the growth trajectory of a country’s product output diversity can be understood by a recently proposed evolutionary model of Schumpeterian economic dynamics.

Frankel, J.A., Vegh, C.A. & Vuletin, G., 2012. On Graduation from Fiscal Procyclicality.Abstract

In the past, industrial countries have tended to pursue countercyclical or, at worst, acyclical fiscal policy. In sharp contrast, emerging and developing countries have followed procyclical fiscal policy, thus exacerbating the underlying business cycle. We show that, over the last decade, about a third of the developing world has been able to escape the procyclicality trap and actually become countercyclical. We then focus on the role played by the quality of institutions, which appears to be a key determinant of a country's ability to graduate. We show that, even after controlling for the endogeneity of institutions and other determinants of fiscal procyclicality, there is a causal link running from stronger institutions to less procyclical or more countercyclical fiscal policy.

Rodríguez-Oreggia, E. & Freije, S., 2012. Long Term Impact of a Cash-Transfers Program on Labor Outcomes of the Rural Youth.Abstract

This paper evaluates if, after ten years of implementation, the conditional cash transfer program Progresa/Oportunidades has had an effect on labor market outcomes among young beneficiaries in rural Mexico. We use a specific module for the young aged 14 to 24 in the 2007 wave of the Rural Households Evaluation Survey and apply a multi-treatment methodology for different time exposition to the program to identify effects on employment probability, wages, migration and intergenerational occupational mobility. Our results show very little evidence of program impacts on employment, wages or inter-generational occupational mobility among the cohort of beneficiaries under study. This suggests that, despite well documented effects on human capital accumulation of the beneficiaries, labor market prospects in the localities under the program remain sparse.

Frankel, J., 2012. Mauritius: African Success Story.Abstract

Mauritius is a top performer among African countries. It developed a manufacturing sector soon after independence and has managed to respond well to new external shocks. What explains this success? This paper draws on the history of the island, the writings of foreign economists, the ideas of locals, and the results of econometric tests. Mauritius has mostly followed good policies. They include: creating a well-managed Export Processing Zone, conducting diplomacy regarding trade preferences, spending on education, avoiding currency overvaluation, and facilitating business. The good policies can in turn be traced back to good institutions. They include: forswearing an army, protecting property rights (particularly non-expropriation of sugar plantations), and creating a parliamentary structure with comprehensive participation (in the form of representation for rural districts and ethnic minorities, the “best loser system,” ever-changing coalition governments, and cabinet power-sharing). But from where did the good institutions come? They were chosen around the time of independence in 1968. Why in Mauritius and not elsewhere? Luck?
Some fundamental geographic and historical determinants of trade and rule of law help explain why average income is lower in Africa than elsewhere, and trade and rule of law help explain performance within Africa just as they do worldwide. Despite these two econometric findings, the more fundamental determinants are not much help in explaining relative performance within Africa. Fundamental determinants that work worldwide but not within Africa are remoteness, tropics, size and fragmentation. (Access to the sea is the one fundamental geographic determinant of trade and income that is always important.) A case in point is the high level of ethnic diversity in Mauritius, which in many places would make for dysfunctional politics. Here, however, it brings cosmopolitan benefits. The institutions manage to balance the ethnic groups; none is excluded from the system. It is intriguing that the three African countries with the highest governance rankings (Mauritius, Seychelles and Cape Verde) are all islands that had no indigenous population. It helps that everyone came from somewhere else.

Frankel, J., 2012. The Natural Resource Curse: A Survey of Diagnoses and Some Prescriptions.Abstract

Countries with oil, mineral or other natural resource wealth, on average, have failed to show better economic performance than those without, often because of undesirable side effects. This is the phenomenon known as the Natural Resource Curse. This paper reviews the literature, classified according to six channels of causation that have been proposed. The possible channels are: (i) long-term trends in world prices, (ii) price volatility, (iii) permanent crowding out of manufacturing, (iv) autocratic/oligarchic institutions, (v) anarchic institutions, and (vi) cyclical Dutch Disease. With the exception of the first channel – the long-term trend in commodity prices does not appear to be downward – each of the other channels is an important part of the phenomenon. Skeptics have questioned the Natural Resource Curse, pointing to examples of commodity-exporting countries that have done well and arguing that resource exports and booms are not exogenous. The relevant policy question for a country with natural resources is how to make the best of them.

Bahar, D., Hausmann, R. & Hidalgo, C., 2012. Neighbors and the Evolution of the Comparative Advantage of Nations: Evidence of International Knowledge Diffusion?.Abstract

The literature on knowledge diffusion shows that it decays strongly with distance. In this paper we document that the probability that a product is added to a country’s export basket is, on average, 65% larger if a neighboring country is a successful exporter of that same product. For existing products, having a neighbor with comparative advantage in them is associated with a growth of exports that is higher by 1.5 percent per annum. While these results could be driven by a common third factor that escapes our controls, they are what would be expected from the localized character of knowledge diffusion.

Diwan, I., 2012. A Rational Framework for the Understanding of the Arab Revolutions.Abstract

The paper argues that demise of the autocratic bargain in the Arab world, ushered by the uprisings of 2010-11, has been driven by a split in the ruling class. The bargain authoritarians struck with their societies in the recent decade is best characterized as a repressive regime that relied on a narrow elite base. The paper explores the dynamic factors that have affected this bargain over time, and in particular, the increased autonomy of the middle class, the rise of crony capitalism, the increased popularity of Political Islam among the middle class, and the "indignities" associated with unpopular foreign alliances. The recent political changes are interpreted as the moment when the middle class, traditionally allied with the autocrats, and affected by these latent pull and push factors, preferred to "tip" its support to a transition towards a democratic settlement. The 3-player model I develop is shown to explain the characteristics of the ongoing Arab Spring and of the key future challenges facing the region better than the classical autocratic bargain model.

Rodríguez-Oreggioa, E. & Flores, M., 2012. Structural Factors and the "War on Drugs" Effects on the Upsurge in Homicides in Mexico.Abstract

Violence has increased all around Mexico in the last years, reflecting an uprise in the rate of homicides, and especially after some federal intervention took place to fight the drug cartels in some states. In this paper we use data at the municipal level to link social and institutional factors with the rates of homicides. We exploit the entrance for federal army interventions in 2007 and 2008 in some states to fight drug cartels. Using different estimation methods, we find that inequality, access to social security and income, as well as local provision of security and law are relevant in explaining homicides. We also find that the army interventions have increased not only drug related homicides, but also general homicides in municipalities under intervention compared with those with no intervention.