Structural Transformation/Diversification

Schetter, U., 2020. Quality Differentiation, Comparative Advantage, and International Specialization Across Products.Abstract

We introduce quality differentiation into a Ricardian model of international trade. We show that (1) quality differentiation allows industrialized countries to be active across the full board of products, complex and simple ones, while developing countries systematically specialize in simple products, in line with novel stylized facts. (2) Quality differentiation may thus help to explain why richer countries tend to be more diversified and why, increasingly over time, rich and poor countries tend to export the same products. (3) Quality differentiation implies that the gains from inter-product trade mostly accrue to developing countries. (4) Guided by our theory, we use a censored regression model to estimate the link between a country’s GDP per capita and its export quality. We find a much stronger relationship than when using OLS, in line with our theory.

Hausmann, R., et al., 2019. A Roadmap for Investment Promotion and Export Diversification: The Case of Jordan.Abstract

Jordan faces a number of pressing economic challenges: low growth, high unemployment, rising debt levels, and continued vulnerability to regional shocks. After a decade of fast economic growth, the economy decelerated with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. From then onwards, various external shocks have thrown its economy out of balance and prolonged the slowdown for over a decade now. Conflicts in neighboring countries have led to reduced demand from key export markets and cut off important trade routes. Foreign direct investment, which averaged 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2003-2009, fell to 5.1% of GDP over the 2010-2017. Regional conflicts have interrupted the supply of gas from Egypt – forcing Jordan to import oil at a time of record prices, had a negative impact on tourism, and also provoked a massive influx of migrants and refugees. Failure to cope with 50.4% population growth between led to nine consecutive years (2008-2017) of negative growth rates in GDP per capita, resulting in a cumulative loss of 14.0% over the past decade (2009-2018). Debt to GDP ratios, which were at 55% by the end of 2009, have skyrocketed to 94%.

Over the previous five years Jordan has undertaken a significant process of fiscal consolidation. The resulting reduction in fiscal impulse is among the largest registered in the aftermath of the Financial Crises, third only to Greece and Jamaica, and above Portugal and Spain. Higher taxes, lower subsidies, and sharp reductions in public investment have in turn furthered the recession. Within a context of lower aggregate demand, more consolidation is needed to bring debt-to-GDP ratios back to normal. The only way to break that vicious cycle and restart inclusive growth is by leveraging on foreign markets, developing new exports and attracting investments aimed at increasing competitiveness and strengthening the external sector. The theory of economic complexity provides a solid base to identify opportunities with high potential for export diversification. It allows to identify the existing set of knowhow, skills and capacities as signaled by the products and services that Jordan is able to make, and to define existing and latent areas of comparative advantage that can be developed by redeploying them. Service sectors have been growing in importance within the Jordanian economy and will surely play an important role in export diversification. In order to account for that, we have developed an adjusted framework that allows to identify the most attractive export sectors including services.

Based on that adjusted framework, this report identifies export themes with a high potential to drive growth in Jordan while supporting increasing wage levels and delivering positive spillovers to the non-tradable economy. The general goal is to provide a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to a high economic growth path that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.

Revised March 2020
Kasoolu, S., et al., 2019. Female Labor in Jordan: A Systematic Approach to the Exclusion Puzzle.Abstract

Women in Jordan are excluded from labor market opportunities at among the highest rates in the world. Previous efforts to explain this outcome have focused on specific, isolated aspects of the problem and have not exploited available datasets to test across causal explanations. We develop a comprehensive framework to analyze the drivers of low female employment rates in Jordan and systematically test their validity, using micro-level data from Employment and Unemployment Surveys (2008-2018) and the Jordanian Labor Market Panel Survey (2010-2016). We find that the nature of low female inclusion in Jordan’s labor market varies significantly with educational attainment, and identify evidence for different factors affecting different educational groups. Among women with high school education or less, we observe extremely low participation levels and find the strongest evidence for this phenomenon tracing to traditional social norms and poor public transportation. On the higher end of the education spectrum – university graduates and above – we find that the problem is not one of participation, but rather of unemployment, which we attribute to a small and undiversified private sector that is unable to accommodate women’s needs for work and work-family balance.

Listen to a podcast interview with author Semiray Kasoolu about her research on women and labor force exclusion in Jordan

2019-10-cid-wp-365-female-labor-jordan.pdf jordan-policy-brief-v11.pdf
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.
Klissurski, G. & Zuccolo, B., 2017. Diversification in the Industrial Sector of Albania: Identifying Strategic Areas, Center for International Development.Abstract

In this study, we analyzed Albania’s industrial exports using the frameworks of the Product Space and Economic Complexity in order to determine which products Albania could diversify into in the near future. In particular, we identified groups of products that are technologically close to those which Albania already exports and which at the same time are technologically more sophisticated (more complex) than Albania’s average exports. This analysis does not suggest that products that do not fulfill the criteria of technological proximity and product complexity should not be invested in. However, it suggests that some products may have higher chances of succeeding in Albania because of its existing technological capabilities, while also bringing about diversification towards more complex, higher value-added production.

We find that the top two sectors that satisfy the criteria of being in close proximity to the existing technological capabilities in Albania, while also having relatively highly complex products, are Plastics/Rubbers and Agriculture/Foodstuffs. Within each of these sectors, we list more specific products that make for good candidates for diversification.

Bahar, D., et al., 2017. The Birth and Growth of New Export Clusters: Which Mechanisms Drive Diversification?.Abstract
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.
Hausmann, R., Santos, M.A. & Obach, J., 2017. Appraising the Economic Potential of Panama: Policy Recommendations for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.Abstract

This report aims to summarize the main findings of the project as gathered by the three baseline documents, and frame them within a coherent set of policy recommendations that can help Panama to maintain their growth momentum in time and make it more inclusive. Three elements stand out as cornerstones of our proposal:

(i) attracting and retaining qualified human capital;

(ii) maximizing the diffusion of know-how and knowledge spillovers, and

(iii) leveraging on public-private dialog to tackle coordination problems that are hindering economic activity outside the Panama-Colón axis.

Marrazzo, P.M. & Terzi, A., 2017. Wide-reaching Structural Reforms and Growth: A Cross-country Synthetic Control Approach.Abstract

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. 

Frasheri, E., 2016. Of Knights and Squires: European Union and the Modernization of Albania.Abstract

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.


This paper is published in the North Carolina Journal of International Law (Volume 42, Issue 1) 

Of Knights and Squires: European Union and the Modernization of Albania
Frasheri, E., 2016. Of Knights and Squires: European Union and the Modernization of Albania. North Carolina Journal of International Law , 42 (1) , pp. 1.Abstract

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.

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.

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.

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



Hausmann, R. & Bustos, S., 2012. Structural Transformation in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia: A Comparison with China, South Korea, and Thailand. In African Development Bank, pp. 15-68. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Countries seldom grow rich by producing more of the same. Development implies changes in what countries produce. Structural transformation is the process by which countries move into new economic activities. In turn, new economic activities are the ones that are able to achieve higher levels of productivity, pay higher wages and increase the level of prosperity of a country’s population. Structural transformation is crucial for economic growth: countries that are able to upgrade their production and exports by moving into new and more complex economic activities tend to grow faster.

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

Hausmann, R. & Hidalgo, C.A., 2010. Country diversification, product ubiquity, and economic divergence.Abstract

Countries differ markedly in the diversification of their exports. Products differ in the number of countries that export them, which we define as their ubiquity. We document a new stylized fact in the global pattern of exports: there is a systematic relationship between the diversification of a country’s exports and the ubiquity of its products. We argue that this fact is not implied by current theories of international trade and show that it is not a trivial consequence of the heterogeneity in the level of diversification of countries or of the heterogeneity in the ubiquity of products. We account for this stylized fact by constructing a simple model that assumes that each product requires a potentially large number of non-tradable inputs, which we call capabilities, and that a country can only make the products for which it has all the requisite capabilities. Products differ in the number and specific nature of the capabilities they require, as countries differ in the number/nature of capabilities they have. Products that require more capabilities will be accessible to fewer countries (i.e., will be less ubiquitous), while countries that have more capabilities will have what is required to make more products (i.e., will be more diversified). Our model implies that the return to the accumulation of new capabilities increases exponentially with the number of capabilities already available in a country. Moreover, we find that the convexity of the increase in diversification associated with the accumulation of a new capability increases when either the total number of capabilities that exist in the world increases or the average complexity of products, defined as the number of capabilities products require, increases. This convexity defines what we term as aquiescence trap, or a trap of economic stasis: countries with few capabilities will have negligible or no return to the accumulation of more capabilities, while at the same time countries with many capabilities will experience large returns - in terms of increased diversification - to the accumulation of additional capabilities. We calibrate the model to three different sets of empirical data and show that the derived functional forms reproduce the empirically observed distributions of product ubiquity, the relationship between the diversification of countries and the average ubiquity of the products they export, and the distribution of the probability that two products are co-exported. This calibration suggests that the global economy is composed of a relatively large number of capabilities – between 23 and 80, depending on the level of disaggregation of the data – and that products require on average a relatively large fraction of these capabilities in order to be produced. The conclusion of this calibration is that the world exists in a regime where the quiescence trap is strong.

Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. Structural Transformation in Pakistan,Abstract
Structural transformation is the process by which countries change what they produce and move from low-productivity, low-wage activities to high-productivity, high-wage activities. The purpose of this report is to use emerging methodologies to analyze Pakistan’s history of and opportunities for structural transformation, in an effort to better understand past economic performance and accelerate future economic growth. Part 1 looks at the composition of Pakistan’s export basket and establishes that the country is specialized in relatively unsophisticated export activities that are typical of poorer countries. Compared to other countries in Asia, Pakistan has not been moving to new and better export activities, and consequently has fallen behind. We show that this is in part because the actual products that Pakistan currently produces are intensive in capabilities with few alternative uses. Pakistan is specialized in a relatively peripheral part of the product space, and has not explored the productive possibilities as actively as its comparators. Given this record, an important priority in the future is to accelerate structural transformation. Pakistan’s current orientation in the product space suggests that such acceleration would require a mix of facilitating movements to nearby activities, as well as encouraging more strategic jumps to new areas of the product space. Part 2 uses the data and methodologies of Part 1 to identify what those nearby and more distant activities might be, while Part 3 discusses appropriate policies that follow from these results and promote structural transformation, without suffering common failures of past industrial policies. The key message is that the government of Pakistan must actively learn the sector-specific constraints to structural transformation and overcome them in order to accelerate future economic growth.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2007. Structural Transformation in Chile. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The main finding of this analysis is that Chile’s pattern of specialization implies little opportunities for easy movements to new activities. Chile is specialized in an extremely sparse part of the product space and has a relatively unsophisticated export package. Past growth has been surprisingly strong given this pattern of specialization, as has been performance in the services sector, and it appears that there does remain some room to continue growing through quality upgrading in existing products. However, Chile has little room to increase its market share in existing products, and its current export package does not offer a path to future structural transformation and growth. Furthermore, this isn’t due to Chile’s status as a natural resource-based economy, as the country lags in these dimensions even when compared to countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Movements to new sectors are necessary, but will be difficult given this pattern of specialization. This suggests that there should be some scope for public investment in the study and coordination of new export activities to fuel long-term economic growth.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2006. Structural Transformation and Patterns of Comparative Advantage in the Product Space.Abstract

In this paper we examine the product space and its consequences for the process of structural transformation. We argue that the assets and capabilities needed to produce one good are imperfect substitutes for those needed to produce other goods, but the degree of asset specificity varies widely. Given this, the speed of structural transformation will depend on the density of the product space near the area where each country has developed its comparative advantage. While this space is traditionally assumed to be smooth and continuous, we find that in fact it is very heterogeneous, with some areas being very dense and others quite sparse. We develop a measure of revealed proximity between products using comparative advantage in order to map this space, and then show that its heterogeneity is not without consequence. The speed at which countries can transform their productive structure and upgrade their exports depends on having a path to nearby goods that are increasingly of higher value.