Fellow Working Papers

Janssen, M., 2016. What Bangs for Your Bucks? Assessing the Design and Impact of Transformative Policy.Abstract

After an era of generic support for economic development and innovation, narrowly targeted transformation policy is back on the table. Recent advances in the fields of new industrial policy and transition thinking converge on the idea that achieving structural change requires governments to take an active role in overcoming inertia. Rather than just leveraging R&D investments and setting framework conditions, policy makers are urged to participate in the development of socio-economic systems around particular technologies. Associated policy support typically involves a diverse portfolio of system-specific interventions.

The emergence of transformative policy, in this paper characterized by being selective, process-oriented and multi-instrumental, poses severe challenges to rising standards of public accountability. Evaluation methods for calculating the ‘bang for the buck’ of R&D-leveraging measures are ill-suited when policy mixes are supposed to enact economic transformation. We argue that, in order to see if aptly chosen policy design is bringing about actual change, assessments should gauge policy contributions to building up technological innovation systems (TIS). The TIS-literature provides a concrete but untapped basis for tracking how policy efforts affect conditions favoring the creation and diffusion of new economic activities. This premise leads us to introduce a scheme for structuring analyses concerned with (the links between) the organization, orientation and aggregate impact of transformative policy. We test it in a tentative assessment of the Dutch ‘Topsector approach’.

Besides facilitating continuous policy learning, our assessment scheme also serves to strengthen policy maker’s ability to legitimize the adoption of heterodox economic approaches.

Bahar, D. & Santos, M.A., 2016. One More Resource Curse: Dutch Disease and Export Concentration.Abstract

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.

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Nedelkoska, L., Neffke, F. & Wiederhold, S., 2015. Skill Mismatch and the Costs of Job Displacement.Abstract
An increasing number of studies evidence large and persistent earning losses by displaced workers. We study whether these losses can partly be attributed to the skill mismatch that arises when workers’ human capital is underutilized at the new job. We develop a new method of measuring skill mismatch that accounts for asymmetries in the transferability of human capital between occupations, and link these measures to exceptionally rich German administrative data on individuals’ work histories. We find that displacement increases the probability of occupational switching and skill mismatch, primarily because displaced workers often move to less skill-demanding occupations. Event-study analyses show that these downskilled switchers suffer substantially larger displacement costs than occupational stayers. Workers moving to more skill-demanding occupations have similar earning losses as stayers, and do not experience any displacement costs conditional on being employed
Santos, M.A., 2015. The Right Fit for the Wrong Reasons: Real Business Cycle in an Oil-Dependent Economy.Abstract

Venezuela is an oil-dependent economy subject to large exogenous shocks, with a rigid labor market. These features go straight at the heart of two weaknesses of real business cycle (RBC) theory widely reported in the literature: Neither shocks are volatile enough nor real salaries are sufficiently flexible as required by the RBC framework to replicate the behavior of the economy. We calibrate a basic RBC model and compare a set of relevant statistics from RBC-simulated time series with actual data for Venezuela and the benchmark case of the United States (1950-2008). In spite of Venezuela being one of the most heavily intervened economies in the world, RBC-simulated series provide a surprisingly good fit when it comes to the non-oil sector of the economy, and in particular for labor markets. Large restrictions on dismissal and widespread minimum (nominal) wage put all the burden of adjustment on prices; which translate into highly volatile real wages.

Coscia, M., Neffke, F. & Lora, E., 2015. Report on the Poblacion Flotante of Bogota.Abstract

In this document we describe the size of the Poblacion Flotante of
Bogota (D.C.). The Poblacion Flotante is composed by people who live
outside Bogota (D.C.), but who rely on the city for performing their job.
We estimate the Poblacion Flotante impact relying on a new data source
provided by telecommunications operators in Colombia, which enables us
to estimate how many people commute daily from every municipality of
Colombia to a specic area of Bogota (D.C.). We estimate that the size of
the Poblacion Flotante could represent a 5.4% increase of Bogota (D.C.)'s
population. During weekdays, the commuters tend to visit the city center

Gomez-Lievano, A., Tellez, J. & Lora, E., 2015. New Insights About Wage Inequality in Colombia.Abstract

This paper presents a descriptive analysis of wage inequality in Colombia by cities and industries and attempts to evaluate the impact of the inequality of industries on inequality of cities. Using the 2010-2014 Colombian Social Security data, we calculate the gini coefficient for cities and industries and draw comparisons between their distributions. Our results show that while cities are unequal in similar ways, industries differ widely on how unequal they can be with ginis. Moreover, industrial structure plays a significant role to determine city inequality. Industrial framework proves to be a key element in this area for researches and policymakers.

Santos, M.A., et al., 2015. Pilot of Inclusive Growth in indigenous communities of Chiapas (Cruztón, Chamula).Abstract

The Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development, the Los Grobo Foundation, and the School of Senior Management and Business Administration of Barcelona (EADA), with the support of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of the Government of Mexico, have partnered to conduct an exploration of the productive attitudes and skills of the indigenous communities of Chiapas. Given the high degree of dispersion of these communities, we have decided to select a pilot location, relatively close to urban areas, and implement the methodology of the Empower Communities program developed by the Los Grobo Foundation there.

Our final objective is to increase the understanding of the social, political, cultural and productive complexity of the indigenous communities of Chiapas, using as a vehicle a methodology that promotes participatory diagnosis, identifies capacities and resources, in the process of designing a collective development plan. territorial. Through the pilot implementation of Empower Communities, the team seeks to create a knowledge base that allows us to strengthen our capacity to design and implement development policies in indigenous communities with a productive aspect, as a complement to the social assistance policies that predominate in the place.

Neffke, F., et al., 2014. Agents of Structural Change: The role of firms and entrepreneurs in regional diversification.Abstract

Who introduces structural change in regional economies: Entrepreneurs or existing firms? And do local or non‐local founders of establishments create most novelty in a region? Using matched employer/employee data for the whole Swedish workforce, we determine how unrelated and therefore how novel the activities of different establishments are to a region’s industry mix. Up‐ and downsizing establishments cause large shifts in the local industry structure, but these shifts only occasionally require an expansion of local capabilities because the new activities are often related to existing local activities. Indeed, these incumbents tend to align their production with the local economy, deepening the region’s specialization. In contrast, structural change mostly originates via new establishments, especially those with non‐local roots. Moreover, although entrepreneurs start businesses more often in activities unrelated to the existing regional economy, new establishments founded by existing firms survive in such activities more often, inducing longer‐lasting changes in the region.

Klinger, B., 2007. Uncertainty in the Search for New Exports.Abstract
This paper explores the role that uncertainty plays in the emergence of new products or services for export in developing countries. Using a comparative case study method, I explore the degree to which those entrepreneurs who discovered new export activities faced uncertainty, and what the nature of this uncertainty was. I then document how this uncertainty, when present, was resolved, and how this affected subsequent diffusion of the newly discovered activity. The cases suggest two important dimensions of uncertainty in the emergence of new export activities: productivity characteristics and demand characteristics. A new activity could feature one, both, or neither types of uncertainty. The reasons for lower inherent uncertainty in these cases suggest a new theory of product similarity that is heterogeneous, multi-dimensional, and operating at a highly disaggregated level. Furthermore, the degree of uncertainty has implications for the expected ‘triggers’ of discovery, and these are born out in the cases. Finally, when uncertainty was present, its resolution often provided significant benefits to subsequent entrants, and the manner in which high uncertainty was overcome suggests potential avenues for policy.