Journal Articles

2020
Fernandez-Arias, E., Hausmann, R. & Panizza, U., 2020. Smart Development Banks. Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade , 19 (69). Publisher's VersionAbstract
The conventional paradigm about development banks is that these institutions exist to target well-identified market failures. However, market failures are not directly observable and can only be ascertained with a suitable learning process. Hence, the question is how do the policymakers know what activities should be promoted; how do they learn about the obstacles to the creation of new activities? Rather than assuming that the government has arrived at the right list of market failures and uses development banks to close some well-identified market gaps, we suggest that development banks can be in charge of identifying these market failures through their loan-screening and lending activities to guide their operations and provide critical inputs for the design of productive development policies. In fact, they can also identify government failures that stand in the way of development and call for needed public inputs. This intelligence role of development banks is similar to the role that modern theories of financial intermediation assign to banks as institutions with a comparative advantage in producing and processing information. However, while private banks focus on information on private returns, development banks would potentially produce and organize information about social returns.
Gomez, A., et al., 2020. Machine-learned patterns suggest that diversification drives economic development. Journal of the Royal Society Interface , 17 (162). Publisher's VersionAbstract
We combine a sequence of machine-learning techniques, together called Principal Smooth-Dynamics Analysis (PriSDA), to identify patterns in the dynamics of complex systems. Here, we deploy this method on the task of automating the development of new theory of economic growth. Traditionally, economic growth is modelled with a few aggregate quantities derived from simplified theoretical models. PriSDA, by contrast, identifies important quantities. Applied to 55 years of data on countries’ exports, PriSDA finds that what most distinguishes countries’ export baskets is their diversity, with extra weight assigned to more sophisticated products. The weights are consistent with previous measures of product complexity. The second dimension of variation is proficiency in machinery relative to agriculture. PriSDA then infers the dynamics of these two quantities and of per capita income. The inferred model predicts that diversification drives growth in income, that diversified middle-income countries will grow the fastest, and that countries will converge onto intermediate levels of income and specialization. PriSDA is generalizable and may illuminate dynamics of elusive quantities such as diversity and complexity in other natural and social systems.
2019
The Value of Complementary Coworkers
Neffke, F., 2019. The Value of Complementary Coworkers. Science Advances , 5 (12). Publisher's VersionAbstract

As individuals specialize in specific knowledge areas, a society’s know-how becomes distributed across different workers. To use this distributed know-how, workers must be coordinated into teams that, collectively, can cover a wide range of expertise. This paper studies the interdependencies among co-workers that result from this process in a population-wide dataset covering educational specializations of millions of workers and their co-workers in Sweden over a 10-year period. The analysis shows that the value of what a person knows depends on whom that person works with. Whereas having co-workers with qualifications similar to one’s own is costly, having co-workers with complementary qualifications is beneficial. This co-worker complementarity increases over a worker’s career and offers a unifying framework to explain seemingly disparate observations, answering questions such as “Why do returns to education differ so widely?” “Why do workers earn higher wages in large establishments?” “Why are wages so high in large cities?”

Frank Neffke discusses his findings in this Growth Lab Podcast.

Nedelkoska, L. & Neffke, F., 2019. Skill Mismatch and Skill Transferability: Review of Concepts and Measurements. Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography , 19 (21). Publisher's VersionAbstract
The notion of skills plays an increasingly important role in a variety of research fields. Since the foundational work on human capital theory, economists have approached skills through the lens of education, training and work experience, whereas early work in evolutionary economics and management stressed the analogy between skills of individuals and the organizational routines of firms. We survey how the concept of skills has evolved into notions such as skills mismatch, skill transferability and skill distance or skill relatedness in labor economics, management, and evolutionary approaches to economics and economic geography. We find that these disciplines converged in embracing increasingly sophisticated approaches to measuring skills. Economists have expanded their approach from quantifying skills in terms of years of education to measuring them more directly, using skill tests, self-reported skills and job tasks, or skills and job tasks reported by occupational experts. Others have turned to administrative and other large-scale data sets to infer skill similarities and complementarities from the careers of sometimes millions of workers. Finally, a growing literature on team human capital and skill complementarities has started thinking of skills as features of collectives, instead of only of individuals. At the same time, scholars in corporate strategy have studied the micro-determinants of team formation. Combined, the developments in both strands of research may pave the way to an understanding of how individual-level skills connect to firm-level routines.
Schetter, U., Gersbach, H. & Schneider, M.T., 2019. Taxation, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. The Economic Journal , 129 (620) , pp. 1731-1781. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We explore optimal and politically feasible growth policies consisting of basic research investments and taxation. We show that the impact of basic research on the general economy rationalises a taxation pecking order with high labour taxes and low profit taxes. This scheme induces a significant proportion of agents to become entrepreneurs, thereby rationalising substantial investments in basic research fostering their innovation prospects. These entrepreneurial economies, however, may make a majority of workers worse off, giving rise to a conflict between efficiency and equality. We discuss ways of mitigating this conflict, and thus strengthening political support for growth policies.
2018
Popularity Spikes Hurt Future Chances For Viral Propagation of Protomemes
Coscia, M., 2018. Popularity Spikes Hurt Future Chances For Viral Propagation of Protomemes. Communications of the ACM , 61 (1) , pp. 70-77. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A meme is a concept introduced by Dawkins12 as an equivalent in cultural studies of a gene in biology. A meme is a cultural unit, perhaps a joke, musical tune, or behavior, that can replicate in people's minds, spreading from person to person. During the replication process, memes can mutate and compete with each other for attention, because people's consciousness has finite capacity. Meme viral spreading causes behavioral change, for the better, as when, say, the "ALS Bucket Challenge" meme caused a cascade of humanitarian donations,a and for the worse, as when researchers proved obesity7 and smoking8 are socially transmittable diseases. A better theory of meme spreading could help prevent an outbreak of bad behaviors and favor positive ones.
Coscia, M., 2018. Using arborescences to estimate hierarchicalness in directed complex networks. PLoS ONE , 13 (1). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Complex networks are a useful tool for the understanding of complex systems. One of the emerging properties of such systems is their tendency to form hierarchies: networks can be organized in levels, with nodes in each level exerting control on the ones beneath them. In this paper, we focus on the problem of estimating how hierarchical a directed network is. We propose a structural argument: a network has a strong top-down organization if we need to delete only few edges to reduce it to a perfect hierarchy—an arborescence. In an arborescence, all edges point away from the root and there are no horizontal connections, both characteristics we desire in our idealization of what a perfect hierarchy requires. We test our arborescence score in synthetic and real-world directed networks against the current state of the art in hierarchy detection: agony, flow hierarchy and global reaching centrality. These tests highlight that our arborescence score is intuitive and we can visualize it; it is able to better distinguish between networks with and without a hierarchical structure; it agrees the most with the literature about the hierarchy of well-studied complex systems; and it is not just a score, but it provides an overall scheme of the underlying hierarchy of any directed complex network.
Birds of a feather scam together: Trustworthiness homophily in a business network
Barone, M. & Coscia, M., 2018. Birds of a feather scam together: Trustworthiness homophily in a business network. Social Networks , 54 (July 2018) , pp. 228-237. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Estimating the trustworthiness of a set of actors when all the available information is provided by the actors themselves is a hard problem. When two actors have conflicting reports about each other, how do we establish which of the two (if any) deserves our trust? In this paper, we model this scenario as a network problem: actors are nodes in a network and their reports about each other are the edges of the network. To estimate their trustworthiness levels, we develop an iterative framework which looks at all the reports about each connected actor pair to define its trustworthiness balance. We apply this framework to a customer/supplier business network. We show that our trustworthiness score is a significant predictor of the likelihood a business will pay a fine if audited. We show that the market network is characterized by homophily: businesses tend to connect to partners with similar trustworthiness degrees. This suggests that the topology of the network influences the behavior of the actors composing it, indicating that market regulatory efforts should take into account network theory to prevent further degeneration and failures.
The Mobility of Displaced Workers: How the Local Industry Mix Affects Job Search
Neffke, F., Otto, A. & Hidalgo, C., 2018. The Mobility of Displaced Workers: How the Local Industry Mix Affects Job Search. Journal of Urban Economics , 108 (November 2018) , pp. 124-140. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Are there Marshallian externalities in job search? We study how workers who lose their jobs in establishment closures in Germany cope with their loss of employment. About a fifth of these displaced workers do not return to social-security covered employment within the next three years. Among those who do get re-employed, about two-thirds leave their old industry and one-third move out of their region. However, which of these two types of mobility responses workers will choose depends on the local industry mix in ways that are suggestive of Marshallian benefits to job search. In particular, large concentrations of one’s old industry makes it easier to find new jobs: in regions where the pre-displacement industry is large, displaced workers suffer relatively small earnings losses and find new work faster. In contrast, large local industries skill-related to the pre-displacement industry increase earnings losses but also protect against long-term unemployment. Analyzed through the lens of a job-search model, the exact spatial and industrial job-switching patterns reveal that workers take these Marshallian externalities into account when deciding how to allocate search efforts among industries.
The workforce of pioneer plants: The role of worker mobility in the diffusion of industries
Hausmann, R. & Neffke, F., 2018. The workforce of pioneer plants: The role of worker mobility in the diffusion of industries. Research Policy. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Does technology require labour mobility to diffuse? To explore this, we use German social-security data and ask how plants that pioneer an industry in a location – and for which the local labour market offers no experienced workers – assemble their workforces. These pioneers use different recruiting strategies than plants elsewhere: they hire more workers from outside their industry and from outside their region, especially when workers come from closely related industries or are highly skilled. The importance of access to experienced workers is highlighted in the diffusion of industries from western Germany to the post-reunification economy of eastern German. While manufacturing employment declined in most advanced economies, eastern German regions managed to reindustrialise. The pioneers involved in this process relied heavily on expertise from western Germany: while establishing new manufacturing industries in the East, they sourced half of their experienced workers from the West.

Originally published as CID Working Paper 310
Kosack, S., et al., 2018. Functional structures of US state governments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Governments in modern societies undertake an array of complex functions that shape politics and economics, individual and group behavior, and the natural, social, and built environment. How are governments structured to execute these diverse responsibilities? How do those structures vary, and what explains the differences? To examine these longstanding questions, we develop a technique for mapping Internet “footprint” of government with network science methods. We use this approach to describe and analyze the diversity in functional scale and structure among the 50 US state governments reflected in the webpages and links they have created online: 32.5 million webpages and 110 million hyperlinks among 47,631 agencies. We first verify that this extensive online footprint systematically reflects known characteristics: 50 hierarchically organized networks of state agencies that scale with population and are specialized around easily identifiable functions in accordance with legal mandates. We also find that the footprint reflects extensive diversity among these state functional hierarchies. We hypothesize that this variation should reflect, among other factors, state income, economic structure, ideology, and location. We find that government structures are most strongly associated with state economic structures, with location and income playing more limited roles. Voters’ recent ideological preferences about the proper roles and extent of government are not significantly associated with the scale and structure of their state governments as reflected online. We conclude that the online footprint of governments offers a broad and comprehensive window on how they are structured that can help deepen understanding of those structures.
government-structure-paper.pdf
The Exposure of U.S. Manufacturing Industries to Exchange Rates
Thorbecke, W., 2018. The Exposure of U.S. Manufacturing Industries to Exchange Rates. International Review of Economics and Finance. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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. Stock returns on many of these sectors 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.
exchange_rates_iref_thorbecke.pdf
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

jde_bahar-santos.pdf
The globalisation of scientific mobility, 1970–2014
Czaika, M. & Orazbayev, S., 2018. The globalisation of scientific mobility, 1970–2014. Applied Geography , 96 (July).Abstract
This article provides an empirical assessment of global scientific mobility over the past four decades, based on bibliometric data. We find (i) an increasing diversity of origin and destination countries integrated in global scientific mobility, with (ii) the centre of gravity of scientific knowledge production and migration destinations moving continuously eastwards by about 1300 km per decade, (iii) an increase in average migration distances of scientists reflecting integration of global peripheries into the global science system, (iv) significantly lower mobility frictions for internationally mobile scientists compared to non-scientist migrants, (v) with visa restrictions establishing a statistically significant barrier affecting international mobility of scientists hampering the global diffusion of scientific knowledge.
Social networks and the intention to migrate
Manchin, M. & Orazbayev, S., 2018. Social networks and the intention to migrate. World Development , 109 (September ) , pp. 360–374. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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 find that having stronger close social networks at home has the opposite effect by reducing the likelihood of migration intentions, both internationally and locally.
Mapping the International Health Aid Community using Web Data
Coscia, M., et al., 2018. Mapping the International Health Aid Community using Web Data. EPJ Data Science , 7:12. Publisher's VersionAbstract
International aid is a complex system: it involves different issues, countries, and donors. In this paper, we use web crawling to collect information about the activities of international aid organizations on different health-related topics and network analysis to depict this complex system of relationships among organizations. By systematically collecting co-occurrences of issues, countries, and organization names from more than a hundred websites, we are able to construct multilayer networks describing, for instance, which issues are related to each other according to which organizations. Our results show that there is a surprising amount of homophily among organizations: organizations of the same type (multilateral, bilateral, private donors, etc.) tend to be co-cited in groups. We also create a taxonomy of issues that are generally mentioned together. Finally, we perform simulations, showing that messages originating from different organizations in the international aid community can have a different reach.
Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment
Hausmann, R. & Nedelkoska, L., 2018. Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment. European Economic Review , 101 (January 2018) , pp. 101-132. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The recent economic depression in Greece hit the population of Albanian migrants in Greece particularly hard, spurring a wave of return migration that increased the Albanian labor force by 5% in less than four years, between 2011 and 2014. We study how this return migration affected the employment chances and earnings of Albanians who never migrated. We find positive effects on the wages of low-skilled non-migrants and overall positive effects on employment. The gains partially offset the sharp drop in remittances in the observed period. An important part of the employment gains are concentrated in the agricultural sector, where most return migrants engage in self-employment and entrepreneurship. Businesses run by return migrants seem to pull Albanians from non-participation, unemployment and subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture.
Agents of Structural Change: The Role of Firms and Entrepreneurs in Regional Diversification
Neffke, F., et al., 2018. Agents of Structural Change: The Role of Firms and Entrepreneurs in Regional Diversification. Economic Geography , pp. 1-26. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Who introduces structural change in regional economies: Entrepreneurs or existing firms? And do local or nonlocal establishment founders create most novelty in a region? We develop a theoretical framework that focuses on the roles different agents play in regional transformation. We then apply this framework, using Swedish matched employer–employee data, to determine how novel the activities of new establishments are to a region. Incumbents mainly reinforce a region’s current specialization: incumbent’s growth, decline, and industry switching further align them with the rest of the local economy. The unrelated diversification required for structural change mostly originates via new establishments, especially via those with nonlocal roots. Interestingly, although entrepreneurs often introduce novel activities to a local economy, when they do so, their ventures have higher failure rates compared to new subsidiaries of existing firms. Consequently, new subsidiaries manage to create longer-lasting change in regions.
2017
Coscia, M. & Neffke, F., 2017. Network Backboning with Noisy Data. 2017 IEEE 33rd International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE) , (May) , pp. 425-436. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Networks are powerful instruments to study complex phenomena, but they become hard to analyze in data that contain noise. Network backbones provide a tool to extract the latent structure from noisy networks by pruning non-salient edges. We describe a new approach to extract such backbones. We assume that edge weights are drawn from a binomial distribution, and estimate the error-variance in edge weights using a Bayesian framework. Our approach uses a more realistic null model for the edge weight creation process than prior work. In particular, it simultaneously considers the propensity of nodes to send and receive connections, whereas previous approaches only considered nodes as emitters of edges. We test our model with real world networks of different types (flows, stocks, cooccurrences, directed, undirected) and show that our Noise-Corrected approach returns backbones that outperform other approaches on a number of criteria. Our approach is scalable, able to deal with networks with millions of edges.
Inter-industry Labor Flows
Neffke, F., Otto, A. & Weyh, A., 2017. Inter-industry Labor Flows. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization , 142 (October) , pp. 275-292. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Using German social security data, we study inter-industry labor mobility to assess how industry-specific human capital is and to determine which industries have similar human capital requirements. We find that inter-industry labor flows are highly concentrated in just a handful of industry pairs. Consequently, labor flows connect industries in a sparse network. We interpret this network as an expression of industries similarities in human capital requirements, or skill relatedness. This skill-relatedness network is stable over time, similar for different types of workers and independent of whether workers switch jobs locally or over larger distances. Moreover, in an application to regional diversification and local industry growth, skill relatedness proves to be more predictive than colocation or value chain relations. To facilitate future research, we make detailed inter-industry relatedness matrices online available.

    inter_industry_labor_jebo.pdf

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