Economic Complexity

2016
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.

Listen to the podcast interview with the authors

bahar_santos_cidwp68.pdf
2015
Hausmann, R., 2015. What are the Challenges of Economic Growth?.
Hausmann, R., Cheston, T. & Santos, M.A., 2015. La Complejidad Economica de Chiapas.Abstract

Chiapas es el estado más pobre de México, y también el menos diversificado en su estructura productiva. Según los hallazgos de este reporte, esa dualidad no es una coincidencia casual. La escasa complejidad económica de Chiapas, medida tanto por la escasa sofisticación de sus exportaciones como por la exigua diversidad en la composición de su empleo, es uno de los factores asociados a sus bajos niveles de ingreso y escaso crecimiento. Para cambiar el patrón de crecimiento de Chiapas es necesario cambiar su estructura de producción, haciéndola más compleja y sofisticada.

Afortunadamente, existe un enorme potencial para que diferentes lugares de Chiapas se muevan de manera gradual hacia productos e industrias de mayor sofisticación, con base en el conocimiento con el que ya cuentan hoy en día. No todos los lugares tienen el mismo potencial; la diversidad de capacidades productivas que existe en México se reproduce hacia el interior de Chiapas de manera fractal. Nuestros análisis indican que la variedad de niveles de ingresos hacia adentro de las regiones sigue siendo mayor que las diferencias entre los promedios de esas regiones. Esta característica justifica la utilización de un enfoque municipal, centrado en aquellas zonas urbanas de mayor población, con suficiente diversidad y sofisticación como para justificar un análisis de productos e industrias “adyacentes” de mayor complejidad que requieran capacidades similares a las ya existentes. Este enfoque reconoce que la esperanza en el corto plazo para muchos ciudadanos que no habitan en la vecindad de las regiones más sofisticadas del estado está en la posibilidad de moverse gradualmente hacia niveles de productividad agrícola más alta.

En este reporte se identifican cuáles son los productos e industrias que ofrecen las mejores posibilidades de diversificación productiva para incrementar la complejidad económica de cuatro de los municipios más complejos de Chiapas, considerando sus capacidades iniciales. Como resultado, se presenta un resumen diferenciado de las principales posibilidades y los retos que debe superar cada lugar para capitalizarlas. Comitán de Domínguez debe centrarse en resolver restricciones logísticas asociadas a conflictos sociales para capitalizar sus posibilidades como destino turístico de alto nivel, y desarrollar una base de fabricación de artículos para el hogar y textiles. San Cristóbal de las Casas está bien posicionado para aprovechar las habilidades desarrolladas en la producción de artesanías y transferirlas a la de textiles sofisticados, en adición a nuevas oportunidades en recubrimientos metálicos, y fabricación de alimentos y bebidas. Para materializar el potencial de Tuxtla Gutiérrez se requiere reconvertir ese amplio sector de servicios que responde a la demanda creada por el gasto público en la capital del estado, en una base de manufacturas más diversa.  Los principales candidatos para movilizar esa transformación productiva son los sectores de textiles y peletería, procesamiento de alimentos, y ciertas categorías particulares de maquinaria por línea de producción.

De todas las regiones de Chiapas, Tapachula es la que posee mayor potencial para expandir su base exportadora hacia productos de mayor complejidad. La región concentra la mayoría de las exportaciones del estado, y cuenta con la creación de la Zona Económica Especial (ZEE) y su parque industrial que permiten abordar nuevas capacidades productivas más complejas y adyacentes. Se identifica el potencial de los productos plásticos, de pinturas y películas, y de metalurgia, de relojes y equipos de soldadura, como unas oportunidades únicas en el estado para promover su transformación productiva.

Nuestro reporte concluye con una reflexión sobre la necesidad de traducir la identificación de los potenciales de cada una de las regiones en una realidad distinta, en una economía diversa, compleja, y próspera. La transformación productiva de Chiapas comenzará por la mejora de la productividad agrícola y la creación de oportunidades en las zonas urbanas que permiten aglomeraciones de conocimientos diversos en firmas complejas. El crecimiento económico en Chiapas no requiere innovación, sino más bien de que el estado aprenda del resto de México a producir de manera eficiente los bienes que el resto del país ya produce.  

Esta posibilidad exige a su vez de la existencia de un sector público capaz de convocar a firmas existentes, y otras que ya operan en el resto de México, para inaugurar nuevas facilidades de producción en Chiapas, combinando nuevas tecnologías y conocimientos con los que ya existen en la región. Así, se va desarrollando de forma gradual la densidad de su tejido productivo y diversidad económica. En última instancia, la clave para capitalizar el enorme potencial de Chiapas está en un cambio en la orientación del discurso productivo, que priorice la diversificación de la economía y la conquista gradual de sectores de mayor complejidad como herramienta para promover el crecimiento inclusivo.

cid_wp_302.pdf executive_summary_english.pdf
Hausmann, R. & Chauvin, J., 2015. Moving to the Adjacent Possible: Discovering Paths for Export Diversification in Rwanda.Abstract

How can Rwanda, which currently has one of the lowest levels of income and exports per capita in the world, grow and diversify its economy in presence of significant constraints? We analyze Rwanda's historical growth and trade performance and find that Rwanda's high transportation costs and limited productive knowledge have held back greater export development and have resulted in excessive rural density. Three basic commodities – coffee, tea, and tin – made up more than 80 percent of the country's exports through its history and still drive the bulk of export growth today. Given Rwanda’s high population density and associated land scarcity, these traditional exports cannot create enough jobs for its growing population, or sustainably drive future growth. Rwanda needs new, scalable activities in urban areas. In this report, we identify a strategy for greater diversification of exports in Rwanda that circumvents the key constraints and is separately tailored for regional and global export destinations. Our results identify more than 100 tradable products that lie at Rwanda's knowledge frontier, are not intensive in Rwanda's scarce resources, and economize on transportation costs. Our analysis produces a vision of a more diversified Rwanda, which can be used as a guide for investment promotion decisions. We illustrate an approach that can be applied to other settings in order to identify opportunities for export diversification that take seriously local constraints and external market opportunities.

hausmann_chauvin_rwanda_294.pdf
2014
Hausmann, R., et al., 2014. How should Uganda grow?.Abstract

Income per capita in Uganda has doubled in the last 20 years. This remarkable performance has been buoyed by significant aid flows and large external imbalances. Economic growth has been concentrated in non-tradable activities leading to growing external imbalances and a growing gap between rural and urban incomes. Future growth will depend on achieving sufficient export dynamism. In addition, growth faces a number of other challenges: low urbanization rate, rapid rural population growth and high dependency ratios. However, both the dependency ratio and fertility rates have begun to decline recently. Rural areas are also severely overcrowded with low-productivity subsistence agriculture as a pervasive form of production. Commercial agriculture has great possibilities to increase output, but as the sector improves its access to capital, inputs and technology it will shed jobs rather than create them.

These challenges combined tell us that future growth in Uganda will require a rapid rate of export growth and economic diversification. The country faces the prospect of an oil boom of uncertain size and timing. It could represent an important stepping stone to achieve external sustainability, expanded income and infrastructure and a greater internal market. However, as with all oil booms, the challenges include avoiding the Dutch disease, managing the inevitable volatility in oil incomes and avoiding inefficient specialization in oil. Policies that set targets for the non-oil deficit could help manage some of these effects, but a conscious strategy to diversify would still be needed.

The best strategy is therefore to use the additional oil revenue and accompanying investments to promote a diversification strategy that is sustainable. To determine how to encourage such a transformation, we draw on a new line of research that demonstrates how development seldom implies producing more of the same. Instead, as countries grow, they tend to move into new industries, while they also increase productivity in existing sectors. In this report, we analyze what those new industries might be for Uganda.

To do so, we first look to those products which balance the desire to increase the diversification and complexity of production, while not over-stretching existing capabilities. These include mostly agricultural inputs, such as agrochemicals and food processing. In addition, Uganda should concurrently develop more complex industries, such as construction materials, that are reasonably within reach of current capabilities and will be in great demand in the context of an oil boom. Here, the fact that Uganda is landlocked and faces high import costs will provide natural protection to the expanding demand in Uganda and neighboring countries. We conclude with a discussion of the government policies that will support Uganda in developing new tradable industries.

cid_working_paper_275.pdf
2013
2013. Economic Complexity Brief.Abstract

How does an economy grow? What is economic complexity? How do we determine where countries can start to diversify their production? The growth theories of Ricardo Hausmann and others at CID are explained in this 5 page briefing.

economic_complexity_briefing.pdf
The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity
Hausmann, R., et al., 2013. The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity 2nd ed., Cambridge: MIT Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

From the foreword:

It has been two years since we published the first edition of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. "The Atlas," as we have come to refer to it, has helped extend the availability of tools and methods that can be used to study the productive structure of countries and its evolution.

Many things have happened since the first edition of The Atlas was released at CID's Global Empowerment Meeting, on October 27, 2011. The new edition has sharpened the theory and empirical evidence of how knowhow affects income and growth and how knowhow itself grows over time. In this edition, we also update our numbers to 2010, thus adding two more years of data and extending our projections. We also undertook a major overhaul of the data. Sebastián Bustos and Muhammed Yildirim went back to the original sources and created a new dataset that significantly improves on the one used for the 2011 edition. They developed a new technique to clean the data, reducing inconsistencies and the problems caused by misreporting. The new dataset provides a more accurate estimate of the complexity of each country and each product. With this improved dataset, our results are even stronger.

All in all, the new version of The Atlas provides a more accurate picture of each country’s economy, its "adjacent possible" and its future growth potential.

For up-to-date datasets and new visualizations, visit atlas.cid.harvard.edu.

 

 

 
atlas_2013_part1.pdf
2011
The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping paths to Prosperity
Hausmann, R., et al., 2011. The Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping paths to Prosperity,Abstract

Over the past two centuries, mankind has accomplished what used to be unthinkable. When we look back at our long list of achievements, it is easy to focus on the most audacious of them, such as our conquest of the skies and the moon. Our lives, however, have been made easier and more prosperous by a large number of more modest, yet crucially important feats. Think of electric bulbs, telephones, cars, personal computers, antibiotics, TVs, refrigerators, watches and water heaters. Think of the many innovations that benefit us despite our minimal awareness of them, such as advances in port management, electric power distribution, agrochemicals and water purification. This progress was possible because we got smarter. During the past two centuries, the amount of productive knowledge we hold expanded dramatically. This was not, however, an individual phenomenon. It was a collective phenomenon. As individuals we are not much more capable than our ancestors, but as societies we have developed the ability to make all that we have mentioned – and much, much more.

For up-to-date datasets and new visualizations, visit atlas.cid.harvard.edu.

HarvardMIT_Atlas2011.pdf
The network structure of economic output
Hausmann, R. & Hidalgo, C.A., 2011. The network structure of economic output. Journal of Economic Growth. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Much of the analysis of economic growth has focused on the study of aggregate output. Here, we deviate from this tradition and look instead at the structure of output embodied in the network connecting countries to the products that they export. We characterize this network using four structural features: the negative relationship between the diversification of a country and the average ubiquity of its exports, and the non-normal distributions for product ubiquity, country diversification and product co-export. We model the structure of the network by assuming that products require a large number of non-tradable inputs, or capabilities, and that countries differ in the completeness of the set of capabilities they have. We solve the model assuming that the probability that a country has a capability and that a product requires a capability are constant and calibrate it to the data to find that it accounts well for all of the network features except for the heterogeneity in the distribution of country diversification. In the light of the model, this is evidence of a large heterogeneity in the distribution of capabilities across countries. Finally, we show that the model implies that the increase in diversification that is expected from the accumulation of a small number of capabilities is small for countries that have a few of them and large for those with many. This implies that the forces that help drive divergence in product diversity increase with the complexity of the global economy when capabilities travel poorly.

hausmannhidalgojoeg_2011.pdf
2009
Hidalgo, C.A. & Hausmann, R., 2009. The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 106 (26) , pp. 10570-10575.Abstract

For Adam Smith, wealth was related to the division of labor. As people and firms specialize in different activities, economic effi- ciency increases, suggesting that development is associated with an increase in the number of individual activities and with the complexity that emerges from the interactions between them. Here we develop a view of economic growth and development that gives a central role to the complexity of a country’s economy by interpreting trade data as a bipartite network in which countries are connected to the products they export, and show that it is possible to quantify the complexity of a country’s economy by characterizing the structure of this network. Furthermore, we show that the measures of complexity we derive are correlated with a country’s level of income, and that deviations from this relationship are predictive of future growth. This suggests that countries tend to converge to the level of income dictated by the complexity of their productive structures, indicating that development efforts should focus on generating the conditions that would allow complexity to emerge to generate sustained growth and prosperity.

zpq10570.pdf
Hidalgo, C.A. & Hausmann, R., 2009. The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity.Abstract

For Adam Smith, wealth was related to the division of labor. As people and firms specialize in different activities, economic efficiency increases, suggesting that development is associated with an increase in the number of individual activities and with the complexity that emerges from the interactions between them. Here we develop a view of economic growth and development that gives a central role to the complexity of a country's economy by interpreting trade data as a bipartite network in which countries are connected to the products they export, and show that it is possible to quantify the complexity of a country's economy by characterizing the structure of this network. Furthermore, we show that the measures of complexity we derive are correlated with a country's level of income, and that deviations from this relationship are predictive of future growth. This suggests that countries tend to converge to the level of income dictated by the complexity of their productive structures, indicating that development efforts should focus on generating the conditions that would allow complexity to emerge in order to generate sustained growth and prosperity.

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