Latin America

Rubinstein, A., et al., 2022. An Integrated Epidemiological and Economic Model of COVID-19 NPIs in Argentina.Abstract
We added a multi-sectoral economic framework to a SVEIR epidemiological model, combining the economic rationale of the DAEDALUS model with a detailed treatment of lockdown fatigue and declining compliance with Public Health and Social Measures reported in recent empirical work, to quantify the epidemic and economic benefits and costs of alternative lockdown and PHSM policies, both in terms of intensity and length. Our calibration replicates key features of the case and death-curves and economic cost for Argentina in 2021. The model allows us to quantify the short-term policy trade-off between lives and livelihoods and show that it can be significantly improved with targeted pharmaceutical policies such as vaccine rollout to reduce mainly severe disease and the death toll from COVID-19, as has been highlighted by previous studies.
Hausmann, R., et al., 2022. Overcoming Remoteness in the Peruvian Amazonia: A Growth Diagnostic of Loreto.Abstract

Is there a tradeoff between environmental sustainability and economic development? If there is a place where that question can be approximated, that is Loreto. Located on the western flank of the Amazon jungle, Loreto is Peru’s largest state and the one with the lowest population density. Its capital, Iquitos, is the largest city without road access in the world. For three decades, the region’s income and development has diverged from that of Peru and its other Amazonian peers by orders of magnitude. And yet, despite plummeting contributions from natural resources – that predominate in the policy discussion in and on the state – Loreto has developed a more complex productive ecosystem than one would expect, given its geographical isolation. As a result, it has a stock of productive capabilities that can be redeployed in economic activities with higher value-added, able to sustain higher wages and better living standards.

We deployed a thorough Growth Diagnostic of Loreto to identify the most binding constraints preventing private investment and development in sustainable economic activities. In the process, we relied on domestic databases available to the public in Peru and international datasets, combining and validating our analytical insights with extensive field visits to the Peruvian Amazonia and lengthy interviews with policymakers, private businesses, and academia. Improving fluvial connectivity, developing the capacity to sort out coordination failures associated with the process of self-discovery, and substituting oil for solar energy, are the three policy goals that would deliver the largest bang for the reform buck. The latter presents an opportunity for environmental organizations – subsidizing solar – to move away from their status quo of preventing bad things from happening, to a more constructive one that entails enabling good things and sustainable industries to happen.

Project page: Economic Growth and Structural Transformation in Loreto, Peru

2022-10-cid-wp-387-loreto-growth-diagnostic-en.pdf 2020-11-cid-wp-387-loreto-growth-diagnostic-es.pdf
Lack of progress cannot be solved by a redistributive strategy
Hausmann, R., 2021. Lack of progress cannot be solved by a redistributive strategy. In I. Goldfajn & E. L. Yeyati, ed. Latin America: The Post-Pandemic Decade. London. London: Centre for Economic Policy Research Press, pp. 75-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Section II, "Policies for sustainable growth", includes dialogues with Mauricio Cárdenas, Marcela Eslava, Ricardo Hausmann, Rodrigo Valdés and Alejandro Werner.

Returning to sustained growth is a key challenge for Latin American economies. This section discusses the causes of the dismal performance of Latin America and the post-Covid policies needed to change this reality. Contributors in this section suggest that the region will witness important rebounds during 2021-2022. The recovery that started in the second half of 2020 gained strength as the economies gradually reopened following rising vaccination rates. Some countries will be reaching 2019 GDP levels in 2021; others, in 2022. However, the concern is that these recoveries will be short-lived. And if global financial conditions become less supportive, the next decade could be quite demanding.

In the medium term, Latin America is expected to exhibit significant scars from Covid, as growth is expected to be permanently below the levels anticipated before the pandemic. But the severe problem of the limited growth potential of the region predates the crisis. And, even for countries that grew more than the Latin American average, the post-pandemic future looks bleaker. The contributors highlight several reasons behind this modest performance. The first and the most commonly cited is macroeconomic mismanagement (high inflation, financial fragility leading to balance-of-payments crises). However, even countries that successfully achieved macroeconomic stabilisation failed to achieve sustained growth. It follows that the forces behind low growth are more complex: the business environment has been feeble; there is a lack of appropriate governance; the natural resource curse applies in some countries, with weak institutions and short-sighted governments with the perception that there is no need for further effort; there are social, political and institutional factors that complicate the building of a consensus around an economic policy framework that sets the foundations for medium-term inclusive growth. In addition, relatively slow technological progress widens the region’s technological gap with the advanced world. Moreover, while the lack of social progress cannot be solved merely with a redistributive strategy, the region’s regressive income distribution and structural poverty are detrimental to growth through their impact on the expected sustainability of economic regimes, as well as, on occasions, pure expropriation risk arising from social tensions. In the meantime, local talent remains undiscovered and undernourished for lack of opportunities.

Most doubt the possibility of implementing successful industrial policies in the region, sceptical that Latin American policymakers could efficiently substitute for the right market signals and incentives, and propose that the development strategy should be largely based on horizontal policies. But some see a role for the state to address the many unexploited externalities, arguing that public goods do not possess the market’s invisible hand to signal where the information about what is needed, the incentives to provide these public goods, and the allocation of resources.

Hausmann, R. & Bustos, S., 2021. New Avenues for Colombia’s Internationalization: Trade in Tasks.Abstract

One of the consequences of COVID-19 is the recognition that many tasks can be done from home. But anything that can done remotely, can be done from abroad.

Given large salary differences between white collar workers across countries, it would make sense for value chains to try to exploit them. This opens an opportunity for Colombia to further promote its integration into the world global value chains and access new markets.

This paper explores the possibility of exporting teleworkable services from Colombia. The goal is to provide useful information to guide strategic interventions to speed-up the development of such service industries in Colombia.

We first introduce a definition of teleworkable jobs and describe its occupations and industries along different dimensions. We show that there are many teleworkable jobs in the US, representing a significant share of industry costs. Then, we show that many industries intensive in teleworkable jobs are currently traded across borders. To quantify Colombia’s advantage providing teleworkable services, we study the cost structure of industries and quantify the potential savings in overall costs if the tasks were performed by Colombians. Given Colombia’s current presence and the density around teleworkable industries we can calculate a proxy of the latent advantage in teleworkable services. We propose an index that summarize these dimensions and rank the potential gains from including telework from Colombia in an industry. We end with a set of policy recommendations to move this agenda forward.

Grisanti, A., et al., 2021. Colombian Diaspora Survey Results Dashboard. Explore DashboardAbstract
As part of the "Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy" project, Growth Lab researchers surveyed 11,500 members of the Colombian diaspora, located in well over 100 countries. They studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia.
Nedelkoska, L., et al., 2021. The Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy.Abstract
We studied the geography as well as the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of 1.7 million members of the global Colombian diaspora (34% of the total estimated Colombian diaspora) using census and survey data from major host countries, and 3.5 million Twitter users located around the world presumed to be of Colombian origin. We also studied the locations and industries of Colombian senior managers and directors outside Colombia, using a global database of over 400 million companies. Moreover, we studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia, through a survey which received 11,500 responses from the diaspora in well over 100 countries in less than two months. We additionally interviewed 12 Colombian transnational entrepreneurs and professionals, to understand what attracts them professionally to Colombia, and what may stand in the way of more diaspora engagement and professional growth.
Hausmann, R., et al., 2021. Loreto’s Hidden Wealth: Economic Complexity Analysis and Productive Diversification Opportunities.Abstract

The Growth Lab at Harvard University, with funding provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, has undertaken this investigation with the aim of identifying the existing productive capacities in Loreto, as well as the economic activities with potential to drive the structural transformation of its economy. This paper is part of a broader investigation – Promoting Sustainable Economic Growth and Structural Transformation in the Amazon Region of Loreto, Peru – which seeks to contribute with context-specific inputs for the development of national and sub-national public policies that promote productive development and prosperity in this Peruvian state.

2021-03-cid-wp-386-economic-complexity-loreto-en.pdf.pdf 2020-10-cid-wp-386-economic-complexity-loreto-es.pdf
Place-specific determinants of income gaps: New sub-national evidence from Mexico
Hausmann, R., Pietrobelli, C. & Santos, M.A., 2021. Place-specific determinants of income gaps: New sub-national evidence from Mexico. Journal of Business Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The literature on wage gaps between Chiapas and the rest of Mexico revolves around individual factors, such as education and ethnicity. Yet, twenty years after the Zapatista rebellion, the schooling gap has shrunk while the wage gap has widened, and we find no evidence indicating that Chiapas indigenes are worse-off than their likes elsewhere in Mexico. We explore a different hypothesis and argue that place-specific characteristics condition the choices and behaviors of individuals living in Chiapas and explain persisting income gaps. Most importantly, they limit the necessary investments at the firm level in dynamic capabilities. Based on census data, we calculate the economic complexity index, a measure of the knowledge agglomeration embedded in the economic activities at the municipal level. Economic complexity explains a larger fraction of the wage gap than any individual factor. Our results suggest that the problem is Chiapas, and not Chiapanecos.
Hausmann, R., et al., 2020. Buscando virtudes en la lejanía: Recomendaciones de política para promover el crecimiento inclusivo y sostenible en Loreto, Peru.Abstract

Loreto es un lugar de contrastes. Es el departamento más grande del Perú, pero se encuentra entre los de menor densidad poblacional. Su capital, Iquitos, está más cerca de los estados fronterizos de Brasil y Colombia que de las capitales de sus regiones vecinas en el Perú - San Martín y Ucayali. Sólo se puede llegar a Iquitos por vía aérea o fluvial, lo que la convierte en una de las mayores ciudades del mundo sin acceso por carretera. Desde la fundación del departamento, la economía de Loreto ha dependido de la explotación de recursos naturales, desde el boom del caucho a finales del siglo XIX y principios del XX hasta la extracción petrolera y explotación de recursos forestales que predomina en nuestros días. Este modelo ha traído consigo daños ambientales significativos y ha producido un patrón de crecimiento lento y volátil, que ha abierto una brecha cada vez más amplia entre la economía de la región y la del resto del país. Entre 1980 y 2018, Loreto creció a una tasa promedio compuesta anual cuatro veces menor a la del resto del Perú. Es decir, mientras el resto del Perú triplicó el tamaño de su economía, la de Loreto creció algo menos que un tercio.

En la última década (2008-2018), la región también se ha venido distanciando de sus pares amazónicos en el país (Ucayali, San Martín y Madre de Dios), que han crecido a una tasa promedio anual cinco veces mayor. En este período, el ingreso promedio por habitante en Loreto ha pasado de ser tres cuartas partes del promedio nacional en 2008 a menos de la mitad para 2018. Además del rezago económico - o quizás como consecuencia de él -, Loreto también se ubica entre los departamentos con peores indicadores de desarrollo social, anemia y desnutrición infantil del Perú.

En este contexto, el Laboratorio de Crecimiento de la Universidad de Harvard se asoció con la Fundación Gordon and Betty Moore para desarrollar una investigación que proporcionara insumos y recomendaciones de política para acelerar el desarrollo de la región y generar prosperidad de forma sostenible.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2020. Diagnóstico de Crecimiento de Loreto: Principales Restricciones al Desarrollo Sostenible.Abstract

Sembrado en el flanco oeste de la selva amazónica, Loreto se encuentra entre los departamentos más pobres y con peores indicadores sociales del Perú. El desarrollo enfrenta allí un sinfín de barreras, pero no todas son igualmente limitantes y tampoco hay recursos para atender todos los problemas a la vez. El Laboratorio de Crecimiento de la Universidad de Harvard, bajo el auspicio de la Fundación Gordon and Betty Moore, ha desarrollado un Diagnóstico de Crecimiento que buscar identificar las restricciones más limitantes, y priorizar las intervenciones de políticas públicas alrededor de un número reducido de factores con el mayor impacto. La investigación, que se fundamenta en análisis de bases de datos nacionales e internacionales, e incluye factores cuantitativos y cualitativos derivados de las visitas de campo, identifica a la conectividad de transporte, los problemas de coordinación asociados al autodescubrimiento, y la energía eléctrica, como las restricciones más vinculantes para el desarrollo de Loreto. De acuerdo con nuestras conclusiones, mejoras en la provisión de estos tres factores tendrían un mayor impacto sobre el desarrollo sostenible de la región que mejores en la educación y los niveles de capital humano, el acceso a financiamiento, y otros sospechosos habituales. Este reporte es el segundo de una investigación más amplia – Transformación estructural y restricciones limitantes a la prosperidad en Loreto, Perú – que busca aportar insumos para el desarrollo de políticas públicas a escala nacional y regional que contribuyan a promover el desarrollo productivo y la prosperidad de la región.

2020-11-cid-wp-387-loreto-growth-diagnostic-es.pdf 2022-10-cid-wp-387-loreto-growth-diagnostic-en.pdf
Hausmann, R., et al., 2020. La Riqueza Escondida de Loreto: Análisis de Complejidad Económica y Oportunidades de Diversificación Productiva.Abstract

El Laboratorio de Crecimiento de la Universidad de Harvard, bajo el auspicio de la Fundación Gordon and Betty Moore, ha desarrollado esta investigación para identificar las capacidades productivas existentes en Loreto y las actividades económicas con potencial para liderar la transformación estructural de su economía. Este reporte forma parte de una investigación más amplia – Transformación estructural y restricciones limitantes a la prosperidad en Loreto, Perú – que busca aportar insumos para el desarrollo de políticas públicas a escala nacional y regional que contribuyan a promover el desarrollo productivo y la prosperidad de la región, tomando en cuenta sus características particulares.

2020-10-cid-wp-386-economic-complexity-loreto-es.pdf 2021-03-cid-wp-386-economic-complexity-loreto-en.pdf.pdf
Hausmann, R., et al., 2020. Emerging Cities as Independent Engines of Growth: The Case of Buenos Aires.Abstract

What does it take for a sub-national unit to become an autonomous engine of growth? This issue is particularly relevant to large cities, as they tend to display larger and more complex know-how agglomerations and may have access to a broader set of policy tools. To approximate an answer to this question, specific to the case of Buenos Aires, Harvard’s Growth Lab engaged in a research project from December 2018 to June 2019, collaborating with the Center for Evidence-based Evaluation of Policies (CEPE) of Universidad Torcuato di Tella, and the Development Unit of the Secretary of Finance of the City of Buenos Aires. Together, we have developed research agenda that seeks to provide inputs for a policy plan aimed at decoupling Buenos Aires’s growth trajectory from the rest of Argentina’s.

Listen to the Growth Lab Podcast interview with the authors. 

Lora, E., 2020. Income Changes after Inter-city Migration.Abstract
Using panel data for workers who change jobs, changes in several labor outcomes after inter-city migration are estimated by comparing workers in similar circumstances who move to a new city –the treatment group—with those who stay in the same city –the control group. After matching the two groups using Mahalanobis distances over a wide range of covariates, the methodology of “difference-in-difference treatment effects on the treated” is used to estimate changes after migration. On average, migrants experience income gains but their dedication to formal employment becomes shorter. Income changes are very heterogenous, with low-wage workers and those formerly employed by small firms experiencing larger and more sustained gains. The propensity to migrate by groups of sex, age, wage level, initial dedication, initial firm size and size of city of origin is significantly and directly correlated with the expected cumulative income gains of migration, and inversely with the uncertainty of such gains.
Levy-Yeyati, E. & Montane, M., 2020. Specificity of Human Capital: An Occupation Space Based on Job-to-Job Transitions.Abstract
Using job transition data from Argentina’s Household Survey, we document the extent to which human capital is specific to occupations and activities. Based on workers’ propensity to move between occupations/industries, we build Occupation and Industry Spaces to illustrate job similarities, and we compute an occupation and industry similarity measures that, in turn, we use to explain wage transition dynamics. We show that our similarity measures influence positively post-transition wages. Inasmuch as wages capture a worker´s marginal productivity and this productivity reflects the degree to which a worker matches the job’s skill demand, our results indicate that a worker´s human capital is specific to both occupation and activity: closer occupations share similar skill demands and task composition (in other words, demand similar workers) and imply a smaller human capital loss in the event of a transition.
Revised May 2020.
Hiperinflación y cambios políticos: Democracia, transiciones en el poder y resultados económicos
Barrios, D. & Santos, M., 2019. Hiperinflación y cambios políticos: Democracia, transiciones en el poder y resultados económicos. In L. Vera & J. Guerra, ed. Inflación e Hiperinflación: Miradas, lecciones y desafíos para Venezuela. Caracas. Caracas: Abediciones (UCAB), pp. 185-207. libro-hiper-15-05-19-paginas-185-207.pdf
Pan, C.I., 2019. Tax Avoidance in Buenos Aires: The Case of Ingresos Brutos.Abstract
This study presents evidence of tax avoidance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I exploit a break in the tax scheme of the most controversial tax, Ingresos Brutos (gross income), between the city and the greater area, which are otherwise identical law and regulation-wise for the studied population. When possible, workers would rather travel longer distances to their jobs than face the tax burden. Given that this type of avoidance is costly, results suggest that Ingresos Brutos might be acting as a binding constraint to growth for businesses.
Bustos, S. & Morales, J.R., 2019. Globalization and Protectionism: AMLO’s 2006 Presidential Run.Abstract
We study the effects of local tariff drops for Mexican exports to the US on the local electoral performance of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in Mexico’s 2006 presidential election. In an effort to appeal to his rural base, AMLO proposed to unilaterally retain tariff exemptions on imported corn and beans, which were scheduled to drop under NAFTA by the end of 2008. This elevated protectionism in the public agenda during the campaign. We find that local economic gains due to export tariff drops under NAFTA between 1994 and 2001 led to a drop in AMLO’s local vote share gains in 2006. These effects are contingent to the 2006 election, as similar effects on local vote for the left are not found in previous or later elections. Results are robust to controls for local grain growing and Chinese competition. We predict that AMLO would have been elected in 2006 had protectionism not been a salient electoral issue. Our findings suggest export access gains due to globalization undermine local political preferences over national protectionist platforms.
Gorrín, J., A., J.R.M. & Ricca, B., 2019. The Impact of the Mexican Drug War on Trade.Abstract
This paper studies the unintended economic consequences of increases in violence following the Mexican Drug War. We study the effects on exports in municipalities with different levels of exposure to violence after the policy. A focus on exports allows us to control for demand shocks by comparing exports of the same product to the same country of destination. Building on the close elections identification strategy proposed by Dell (2015), we show that municipalities that are exogenously exposed to the Drug War experience a 40% decrease in export growth on the in- tensive margin. Large exporters suffer larger effects, along with exports of more complex, capital intensive, and skill intensive products. Finally, using firm level data, we provide evidence consistent with violence increasing marginal exporting costs.
Fool’s Gold: On the Impact of Venezuelan Devaluations in Multinational Stock Prices
Bahar, D., Molina, C.A. & Santos, M.A., 2018. Fool’s Gold: On the Impact of Venezuelan Devaluations in Multinational Stock Prices. Economia LACEA , 19 (1) , pp. 93-128. Publisher's VersionAbstract
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 multinational corporations with Venezuelan subsidiaries. The results suggest evidence of statistically and economically significant negative CARs of up to 2.07 percent 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 predictions of the efficient market hypothesis stating that predictable devaluations should not affect the 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 a suggestive indication of market inefficiencies in the process of asset pricing.
Barrios, D., et al., 2018. Tabasco: Diagnóstico de Crecimiento.Abstract

Since 2003, the GDP per capita of Tabasco has consistently figured among the 4 largest in the country. However, this level of economic activity has not translated into an equally favorable performance in other social welfare metrics. According to CONEVAL, the Tabasco poverty rate in 2016 was 50.9%, seven percentage points higher than the national rate (43.6%). On the other hand, the average monthly income of the workers of the state is in the 40th percentile of all the states.

This discrepancy can be explained because the mining activity, despite accumulating only 3% of jobs, represents more than 50% of the state's GDP. If we only consider non-oil GDP, we have that the GDP per capita of the state has tended to be located around the country's median, and for 2016 it was in the 30th percentile nationwide.