Oaxaca is the second-poorest state in Mexico. It is also growing more slowly than the national average, leading to regional divergence. This paper seeks to diagnose the binding constraints that keep GDP growth in Oaxaca low.
There is significant variation in average monthly incomes within Oaxaca, with a 12x gap between the municipality with the highest salary and that with the lowest. Oaxaca has 570 municipalities, whereas given its population and the national average for people per municipality it should have 66. And it is very indigenous: 58% of the population speaks an indigenous language, compared to a national average of 15%. Oaxaca’s product space, a measure of how many kinds of industries provide employment in the state, is very low and has seen very limited change since 2004. The state shares some similarities with other states in southern Mexico, such as Chiapas and Guerrero. All three share a limited manufacturing base which, even after signing NAFTA, remained flat as a proportion of state GDP. They also have a poverty rate nearly 3 times the national average.
Oaxaca is a large state with a rugged natural landscape. Its population is highly dispersed, relative to other states in Mexico. This makes infrastructure critical. However, widespread road construction between 2004 and 2014 does not seem to have made a difference to either growth rates or economic complexity at the municipality level, suggesting the infrastructure constraint is not binding. We believe, however, that mobility might be. Transportation costs as a proportion of wages are very high, and are further increased by costly road blockages. This limits the flexibility of the labor force and the aggregation of talent.
Low human capital can reduce the social returns to investment. Even though education is contentious in the state’s politics, Oaxaca’s education gap has been falling over time relative to the national average and its neighbors. This relative increase in years of education, however, has not been translated into economic development. We find that returns to education in the state are very similar to the returns to education in the rest of Mexico and higher than returns to education in Chiapas. We also note that the proportion of schooling undertaken in private institutions is in line with that in other states with higher quality of education. Finally, a Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition suggests that education does not explain wage differentials between Oaxaca and other states. All this evidence suggests that education is not a binding constraint to growth in Oaxaca.
Governance challenges increase the risk of investing in Oaxaca. For instance, over 75% of the municipalities in Oaxaca are governed through Usos y Costumbres. Only 153 of the 570 municipalities use a government-run election to determine their leader, and out of those, four did not elect a municipal president in the June 2016 election due to internal conflicts. 146 municipalities lack a police service. While Usos y Costumbres is a key part of the local social contract, it creates problems, such as in contract enforceability. It also limits migration in and out of the state. We also observe a negative correlation between Usos y Costumbres and local wages that is not explained by factors like indigenous origin.
We also explore access to finance as a constraint to GDP growth. While enterprise surveys confirm that high interest rates, and distance to banks are a problem, Oaxaca’s microenterprises bypass these problems by borrowing from cajas de ahorro or local credit unions. However, most borrowing is destined for consumption rather than investment. We also observe that FDI flows into Oaxaca are very scarce. For these reasons, we believe the binding constraint in Oaxaca is not access to finance, but rather low returns to investment.
It is helpful to think whether there is an underlying syndrome that might explain the two binding constraints we identified: transportation costs and governance. One possible hypothesis is the isolation of people into very small communities that have very strong bonds within the community and very weak bonds outside of it. Oaxaca shows high variety in ethnic groups, languages, and government systems. On average, each municipality has 6,670 people, but there are 110 municipalities with less than 1,000 people. Elsewhere in Mexico, dispersed rural populations gradually converged into urban clusters around job opportunities. In Oaxaca, the process is not yet afoot because of a “productivity trap”, in which low productivity means urban salaries do not cover the costs of transportation or permanent moves, and dispersion keeps productivity low by failing to concentrate employees. Cultural diversity has a side effect of encouraging spatial dispersion and isolation, and of having hundreds of different sets of “rules of the game” covering the state’s population. Increasing the complexity of this economy requires breaking the trap by finding new business models (i.e., encouraging discovery) and coordinating economic activities.
Economic complexity analysis can point us to new industries that are feasible given Oaxaca’s productive capabilities and the existing constraints we discussed. While Oaxaca’s municipalities have among the least complex economies in the country, some industries stand out from our complexity analysis as potentially promising for Oaxaca. The end of the report singles out some industries for further analysis.
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 degree to which modern technologies are able to substitute for groups of job tasks has renewed fears of near-future technological unemployment. We argue that our knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) go beyond the specific tasks we do at the job, making us potentially more adaptable to technological change than feared. The disruptiveness of new technologies depends on the relationships between the job tasks susceptible to automation and our KSA. Here we first demonstrate that KSA are general human capital features while job tasks are not, suggesting that human capital is more transferrable across occupations than what job tasks would predict. In spite of this, we document a worrying pattern where automation is not randomly distributed across the KSA space – it is concentrated among occupations that share similar KSA. As a result, workers in these occupations are making longer skill transitions when changing occupations and have higher probability of unemployment.
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.
Setting a country’s structural growth rate on a higher path, i.e. sparking and sustaining a growth acceleration can have quantitatively huge implications for national income and, more broadly, for people’s wellbeing. We develop a novel statistical framework to identify systematically the set of binding constraints that were unlocked before the 135 growth acceleration episodes that took place between 1962 and 2002 worldwide. We employ this information to characterise the acceleration process, which tends to be preceded by a deep recession and major economic policy changes. Once we combined this information with a set of counterfactual analyses, we find however that successful acceleration strategies should not contain off-the-shelf approaches or necessarily all-encompassing “shock therapy” solutions. On the other hand, they call for a careful tailoring to local conditions. Richer countries tend to experience fewer accelerations, but once these have been ignited, they are better positioned to make the most out of them. Despite standard growth determinants doing a fairly good job at characterising successful accelerations, we note how take-offs remain extremely hard to engineer with a high degree of certainty.
Using a large individual-level survey spanning several years and more than 150 countries, we examine the importance of social networks in influencing individuals' intention to migrate internationally and locally. We distinguish close social networks (composed of friends and family) abroad and at the current location, and broad social networks (composed of same-country residents with intention to migrate, either internationally or locally). We find that social networks abroad are the most important driving forces of international migration intentions, with close and broad networks jointly explaining about 37% of variation in the probability intentions. Social networks are found to be more important factors driving migration intentions than work-related aspects or wealth (wealth accounts for less than 3% of the variation). In addition, we nd that having stronger close social networks at home has the opposite effect by reducing the likelihood of migration intentions, both internationally and locally.
The fact that firms benefit from close proximity to other firms with which they can exchange inputs, skilled labor or know-how helps explain why many industrial clusters are so successful. Studying the evolution of coagglomeration patterns, we show that which type of agglomeration benefits firms has drastically changed over the course of a century and differs markedly across industries. Whereas, at the beginning of the twentieth century, industries tended to colocate with their value chain partners, in more recent decades the importance of this channels has declined and colocation seems to be driven more by similarities industries' skill requirements. By calculating industry-specific Marshallian agglomeration forces, we are able to show that, nowadays, skill-sharing is the most salient motive in location choices of services, whereas value chain linkages still explain much of the colocation patterns in manufacturing. Moreover, the estimated degrees to which labor and input-output linkages are reflected in an industry's coagglomeration patterns help improve predictions of city-industry employment growth.
Macroeconomic adjustment in the euro area periphery was more recessionary than pre-crisis imbalances would have warranted. To make this claim, this paper uses a Propensity Score Matching Model to produce counterfactuals for the Eurozone crisis countries (Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Spain) based on over 200 past macroeconomic adjustment episodes between 1960-2010 worldwide. At its trough, between 2010 and 2015 per capita GDP had contracted on average 11 percentage points more in the Eurozone periphery than in the standard counterfactual scenario. These results are not dictated by any specific country experience, are robust to a battery of alternative counterfactual definitions, and stand confirmed when using a parametric dynamic panel regression model to account more thoroughly for the business cycle. Zooming in on the potential causes, the lack of an independent monetary policy, while having contributed to a deeper recession, does not fully explain the Eurozone’s specificity, which is instead to be identified in a sharper-than-expected contraction in investment and fiscal austerity due to high funding costs. Reading through the overall findings, there are reasons to believe that an incomplete Eurozone institutional setup contributed to aggravate the crisis through higher uncertainty.
Using a worldwide firm-level panel dataset I document a "U-shaped" relationship between productivity growth and baseline levels within each country and industry. That is, fast productivity growth is concentrated at both ends of the productivity distribution. This result serves as a potential explanation to two stylized facts documented in the economic literature: the rising productivity dispersion within narrowly defined sectors, and the increasing market share of few yet highly productive firms.
Export diversification is associated with economic growth and development. Our paper explores competing mechanisms that mediate the emergence and growth of export products based on their economic relatedness to pre-existing exports. Our innovation is to simultaneously consider supply factors like labor, sourcing and technology; as well as demand factors like industry specific customer-linkages in a global setting. We find that, while technology and workforce similarity explain emergence and growth, pre-existing downstream industries remain a robust predictor of diversification, especially for jump starting new exports in developing countries. Our global stylized fact generalizes Javorcik’s (2004) view that spillovers are more likely in backward linkages.
Using a unique dataset on worldwide multinational corporations with precise location of headquarters and affiliates, I present evidence of a trade-off between distance to the headquarters and the knowledge intensity of the foreign subsidiary’s economic activity, emerging from dynamics related to the proximity-concentration hypothesis. This trade-off is strongly diminished the higher the overlap in working hours between the headquarters and its foreign subsidiary. In order to rule out biases arising from confounding factors, I implement a regression discontinuity framework to show that the economic activity of a foreign subsidiary located just across the time zone line that increases the overlap in working hours with its headquarters is, on average, about one percent higher in the knowledge intensity scale. I find no evidence of the knowledge intensity and distance trade-off weakening when a non-stop flight exists between the headquarters and the foreign subsidiary. The findings suggest that lower barriers to real-time communication within the multinational corporation play important role in the location strategies of multinational corporations.
We present the first evidence that international emigrant selection on education and earnings materializes through occupational skills. Combining novel data from a representative Mexican task survey with rich individual-level worker data, we find that Mexican migrants to the United States have higher manual skills and lower cognitive skills than non-migrants. Conditional on occupational skills, education and earnings no longer predict migration decisions. Differential labor-market returns to occupational skills explain the observed selection pattern and significantly outperform previously used returns-to-skills measures in predicting migration. Results are persistent over time and hold within narrowly defined regional, sectoral, and occupational labor markets.
This paper documents negative cumulative abnormal returns (CARs) to five exchange rate devaluations in Venezuela within the context of stiff exchange controls and large black-market premiums, using daily stock prices for 110 multinationals with Venezuelan subsidiaries. The results suggest evidence of statistically and economically significant negative CARs of up to 2.07% over the ten-day event window. We find consistent results using synthetic controls to causally infer the effect of each devaluation on the stock prices of global firms active in the country at the time of the event. Our results are at odds with the predicaments of the efficient market hypothesis stating that predictable devaluations should not impact stock prices of large multinational companies on the day of the event, and even less so when they happen in small countries. We interpret these results as suggestive indication of market inefficiencies in the process of asset pricing.
At a time of slow growth in several advanced and emerging countries, calls for more structural reforms are multiplying. However, estimations of the short- and medium-term impact of these reforms on GDP growth remain methodologically problematic and still highly controversial. We contribute to this literature by making a novel use of the non-parametric Synthetic Control Method to estimate the impact of 23 wide-reaching structural reform packages (including both real and financial sector measures) rolled out in 22 countries between 1961 and 2000. Our results suggest that, on average, reforms started having a significant positive effect on GDP per capita only after five years. Ten years after the beginning of a reform wave, GDP per capita was roughly 6 percentage points higher than the synthetic counterfactual scenario. However, average point estimates mask a large heterogeneity of outcomes. Benefits tended to materialise earlier, but overall to be more limited, in advanced economies than in emerging markets. These results are confirmed when we use a parametric dynamic panel fixed effect model to control for the rich dynamics of GDP, and are robust to a variety of alternative specifications, placebo and falsification tests, and to different indicators of reform.
Do export sanctions cause export deflection? Data on Iranian non-oil exporters between January 2006 and June 2011 shows that two-thirds of these exports were deflected to non-sanctioning countries after sanctions were imposed in 2008, and that at this time aggregate exports actually increased. Exporting firms reduced prices and increased quantities when exporting to a new destination, however, and suffered welfare losses as a result.
How important is working with people who complement one's skills? Using administrative data that record which of 491 educational tracks each worker in Sweden absolved, I quantify the educational fit among coworkers along two dimensions: coworker match and coworker substitutability. Complementary coworkers raise wages with a comparable factor as does a college degree, whereas working with close substitutes is associated with wage penalties. Moreover, this coworker fit does not only account for large portions of the urban and large-plant wage premiums, but the returns to own schooling and the urban wage premium are almost completely contingent on finding complementary coworkers.
Using firm-level census data, we determine how politically-connected firms (PCFs) reduce job creation in Lebanon. After observing that large firms account for the bulk of net job creation, we find that PCFs are larger and create more jobs, but are also less productive, than non-PCFs in their sectors. On a net basis, at the sector-level, each additional PCF reduces jobs created by 7.2% and jobs created by non-PCFs by 11.3%. These findings support the notion that politically-connected firms are used for clientelistic purposes in Lebanon, exchanging privileges for jobs that benefit their patrons’ supporters.
In this paper, I question the idea that a country develops and democratizes merely by pursuing a model of deeper regional integration with more prosperous countries. I examine the case of Albania’s integration into the European Union to show that more often than not, transition reproduces hierarchies and inequities that usually underpin relations between a prosperous center and a backward periphery. Instead of being a cure, a solution to the political primitivism and underdevelopment, the story with Europeanization as a model of modernization suggests that despite noble intentions and goals, reforms in the name of the European Union end up foregrounding a security state apparatus, impose an ideological hegemony, and maintain a political culture that inhibits democratization, while discouraging and displacing the need for endogenous growth strategies.
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.
Cities thrive through the diversity of their occupants because the availability of complementary skills enables firms in the formal sector to grow, delivering increasingly sophisticated products and services. The appearance of new industries is path dependent in that new economic activities build on existing strengths, leading cities to both diversify and specialize in distinct areas. Hence, the location of necessary capabilities, and in particular the distance between firms and people with the skills they need, is key to the success of urban agglomerations. Using data for Colombia, this paper assesses the extent to which cities benefit from skills and capabilities available in their surrounding catchment areas. Without assuming a prioria a definition for cities, we sequentially agglomerate the 96 urban municipalities larger than 50,000 people based on commuting time. We show that a level of agglomeration equivalent to between 45 and 75 minutes of commuting time, corresponding to between 62 and 43 cities, maximizes the impact that the availability of skills has on the ability of agglomerations to generate formal employment. Smaller urban municipalities stand to gain more in the process of agglomeration. A range of policy implications are discussed.