Publications

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
Hausmann, R., Tyson, L.D. & Zahidi, S., 2009. The Global Gender Gap Report 2009, World Economic Forum.Abstract

Over the last year, the world has seen the biggest recession in almost a century. It is clear that recovery will require, among other things, the best of talent, ideas and innovation. It is therefore more important now than ever before for countries and companies to pay heed to one of the fundamental cornerstones of economic growth available to them—the skills and talent of their female human resource pool.As consumers, voters, employees and employers, women will be integral to global economic recovery. However, it is not only the financial and economic system that is in need of rethinking, redesigning and rebuilding. Global challenges such as climate change, food security, conflict, education and health require our immediate, collective efforts to find solutions and will, in fact, be intimately linked to our long-term global economic recovery. Girls and women make up one half of the world’s population—without their engagement, empowerment and contribution, we cannot hope to effectively meet these challenges nor achieve rapid economic recovery. And yet, there is still much work to be done in education, health, the workplace, legislation and politics before women around the globe enjoy the same opportunities as men.There are still millions of “missing” women each year because of the preference for sons in some parts of the world.There are too many female infants who do not receive adequate access to healthcare because of the lower value placed on girls, adding to the global burden of infant mortality. Girls are still missing out on primary and secondary education in far greater numbers than boys, thus depriving entire families, communities and economies of the proven and positive multiplier effects generated by girls’ education and instead aggravating poverty, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and maternal and infant mortality. In those countries where women do indeed receive the benefits of health and education, far too many are then unable to contribute fully and productively to the economy because of barriers to their entry into the workforce or barriers to accessing positions of leadership. Finally, women still remain vastly under-represented in political leadership and decision-making.The combined impact of these gaps entails colossal losses to the global society and economy. Measuring the size of the problem is a prerequisite for identifying the best solutions.Through the Global Gender Gap Reports, for the past four years, the World Economic Forum has been quantifying the magnitude of genderbased disparities and tracking their progress over time. By providing a comprehensive framework for benchmarking global gender gaps, the Report reveals those countries that are role models in dividing resources equitably between women and men, regardless of their level of resources. The World Economic Forum places a strong emphasis on a multi-stakeholder approach in order to engage leaders to design the most effective measures for tackling global challenges. In 2008, we launched our Global Gender Parity Group and Regional Gender Parity Groups in Latin America, the Middle East,Africa and Asia.To date, these multi-stakeholder communities of highly influential leaders—50% women and 50% men—from business, politics, academia, media and civil society have jointly identified the biggest gaps in each region, based in part on the findings of this Report, and have collectively committed to strategies to improve the use of female talent. In addition, our Global Agenda Council on the Gender Gap, an expert council, is using the findings of this Report as one of the inputs for developing proposals to address gaps in international cooperation towards gender equality. Each of the individuals and organizations represented in these communities work collectively towards empowering women, developing globally replicable frameworks and bringing the world ever closer to achieving gender parity.

wef_gendergap_report_2009.pdf
Hausmann, R., Austin, E.L. & Mia, I., 2009. The Mexico Competitiveness Report 2009, World Economic Forum.Abstract

The past 20 years have been a period of important reforms in Mexico. Since the late 1980s, the country has undergone an impressive process of liberalization, opening of the economy, and macroeconomic stabilization. Extreme vulnerability to external shocks, double-digit inflation, and current account and fiscal deficits seem to have been overcome. However, a number of weaknesses continue to drag the country’s productivity and hence its potential for sustained economic growth and the well-being of its citizens. In spite of a very benign external environment in the period 2003–07, Mexico’s growth rates have been disappointing, and the challenges facing the country have become even greater in the context of the current major economic and financial crisis — one of the most serious in decades — affecting the United States and the rest of the world. The Mexico Competitiveness Report 2009 aims at providing Mexico’s policymakers, business leaders, and all relevant stakeholders with a unique tool that identifies the country’s main competitiveness flaws and strengths, together with an in-depth analysis of areas that are key to the country’s potential for long-term growth. In doing so, the Report aims to support the country’s reform process and contribute to the definition of a national competitiveness agenda of the priority issues that need to be tackled for Mexico to boost its competitiveness in the face of the present daunting economic outlook. The Report is organized into three thematic parts. Part 1 assesses the current state of Mexico’s competitiveness and its potential for sustained growth using the broad methodological framework offered by the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2008–2009. Part 2 features contributions from a number of experts providing additional insights and diagnostics related to particular aspects of the competitiveness challenges faced by the country. Part 3 includes detailed profiles for Mexico and 10 selected countries and offers a comprehensive competitiveness snapshot for each of these countries.

mcr_2009.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.

186.pdf
2008
Hausmann, R., Sturzenegger, F. & Horii, M., 2008. The Growing Current Account Surpluses in East Asia: The Effect of Dark Matter Assets. International Economic Journal , 22 (2) , pp. 141-161. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In a series of papers we have developed the notion that net foreign assets could be better approximated by capitalizing the net investment income line of the balance of payments statistics. Hidden assets or changes in financial costs may change the net return of net foreign assets even when the valuation of assets remains unchanged. By capitalizing the net investment income a more realistic picture emerges on the true burden or return of net foreign assets. This paper estimates external positions for East Asian economies using this methodology and compares the results with that of official accounts. We find that, until the late 1990s, net investment income increased relatively little, signaling that net foreign assets had not grown as suggested by the large current account surpluses of these countries. This is consistent with the fact that the region had attracted large amounts of foreign direct investment, for which the transfer of technology and knowledge are not accurately captured by the valuation of the foreign asset position. Since 2002, however, the trend has reversed, indicating much larger surpluses than officially registered. We discuss individual country cases.
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. South Africa's Export Predicament. Economics of Transition , 16 (4) , pp. 609-637. Publisher's Version
Hausmann, R. & Hidalgo, C.A., 2008. A Network View of Economic Development. Developing Alternatives , 12 (1) , pp. 5-10. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Does the type of product a country exports matter for subsequent economic performance? To take an example from the 19th-century economist David Ricardo, does it matter if Britain specializes in cloth and Portugal in wine for the subsequent development of either country? The seminal texts of development economics held that it does matter, suggesting that industrialization creates externalities that lead to accelerated growth (Rosenstein-Rodan 1943; Hirschman 1958; Matsuyama 1992). Yet, lacking formal models, mainstream economic theory has made little of these ideas. Instead, current dominant theories use two approaches to explain countries’ patterns of specialization.
hidalgohausmann_dai_2008.pdf
Hausmann, R., Rodrik, D. & Sabel, C., 2008. Reconfiguring Industrial Policy: A Framework with an Application to South Africa.Abstract
The main purpose of industrial policy is to speed up the process of structural change towards higher productivity activities. This paper builds on our earlier writings to present an overall design for the conduct of industrial policy in a low- to middle-income country. It is stimulated by the specific problems faced by South Africa and by our discussions with business and government officials in that country. We present specific recommendations for the South African government in the penultimate section of the paper.
2008-5-cid-working-paper-168-south-africa-industrial-policy.pdf policybrief_industrial_south_africa_168.pdf
Hausmann, R., Klinger, B. & Lawrence, R., 2008. Examining Beneficiation.Abstract
Beneficiation, moving downstream, and promoting greater value added in natural resources are very common policy initiatives to stimulate new export sectors in developing countries, largely based on the premise that this is a natural and logical path for structural transformation. But upon closer examination, we find that very few countries that export raw materials also export their processed forms, or transition to greater processing. The quantitative analysis finds that broad factor intensities do a much better job of identifying patterns of production and structural transformation than forward linkages, which have an insignificant impact despite the fact that our data is biased against finding significant effects of factor intensities and towards finding significant effects of forward linkages. Moreover, the explanatory power of forward linkages is even smaller in sectors with high transport costs, and in sectors classified as primary products or raw materials, which are the most common targets of such policies. Finally, the results are the same even when only considering developed countries, meaning that colonial legacy inhibiting transitions to natural resource processing are not to blame. These results suggest that policies to promote greater downstream processing as an export promotion policy are misguided. Structural transformation favors sectors with similar technological requirements, factor intensities, and other requisite capabilities, not products connected in production chains. There is no reason for countries like South Africa to focus attention on beneficiation at the expense of policies that would allow other export sectors to emerge. This makes no sense conceptually, and is completely inconsistent with international experience. Quite simply, beneficiation is a bad policy paradigm.
2008-5-cid-working-paper-162-examining-benefication.pdf cid_policybrief_beneficiation.pdf
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. Achieving Export-Led Growth in Colombia. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The purpose of this paper is to analyze Colombia’s experiences with and opportunities for export led growth. We first review Colombia’s growth and export performance over the past 30 years and find that the country is indeed facing an export challenge. We then go on to develop new metrics and apply them to Colombia’s export challenge. First, we consider the opportunities for upgrading quality within existing exports, and find that Colombia has very little opportunity for growth in this dimension. Second, we consider the level of sophistication of the current export basket, and find that it is low and commensurate with the lack of export dynamism. Although not a significant drag on growth, the current export basket will not be sufficient to fuel future output growth. Finally, we develop the concept distances between products, open forest, and the option value of exports to examine the possibility that Colombia’s current structure of production is itself a barrier to future structural transformation. While improvements in the export package have been slow in the past, this evidence suggests that Colombia does now enjoy more options for future structural transformation. As there are attractive options for structural transformation nearby, a parsimonious approach to industrial strategy, rather than a risky strategic bet to move to a new part of the product space, seems appropriate. In order to inform such a strategy, we use the metrics developed in the diagnostic to evaluate new export activities in terms of their proximity to current activities, their sophistication, and their strategic value. We identify the sectors representing the best tradeoffs between these aims for Colombia as a whole, as well as its regions. We also devote separate attention to the topic of Agricultural exports, and to exports of services. Finally, we use these metrics to analyze the list of ‘high-potential’ sectors in the United States, developed by another firm, as well as the sectors prioritized in Colombia’s Agenda Interna. These external lists of high-potential sectors are found to be sensible, but could be further rationalized using these metrics. This identification of nearby, high-potential, and strategically valuable sectors is not meant to be a definitive list for targeted subsidies and ‘picking winners’. Rather, it provides a robust data-driven approach to inform the next steps in achieving export-led growth in Colombia: which private sector actors should be consulted first? What sector-specific reforms should be stressed? How should public spending on infrastructure and training, which are also sector-specific, be prioritized? What foreign firms should be targeted by FDI promotion agencies? These decisions can be informed by our analysis and the accompanying data.
2008-9-cid-working-paper-182-colombia.pdf
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. Structural Transformation in Pakistan, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.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.
41661-01-pak-tacr.pdf
Hausmann, R., 2008. Final Recommendations of the International Panel on ASGISA (South Africa). 161.pdf
Hausmann, R., 2008. In Search of the Chains that Hold Brazil Back.Abstract
This paper performs a Growth Diagnotic for Brazil. It shows that many aspects of the Brazilian economy have been improving including the macro picture, educational progress and the external front. Moreover, Brazil has many productive possibilities and high-return investments. Yet growth is hampered because of a relatively old-fashioned problem that has been solved in many other countries in the region: creating a financially viable st ate that does not over-borrow, over-tax or under-invest. We show that domestic saving is the binding constraint on growth and that it has a fiscal cause. Although things are trending in the right direction, the challenge is to exploit the current good times to create the fiscal basis for a sustained growth acceleration.
180.pdf
Hausmann, R., Rodrik, D. & Velasco, A., 2008. Growth Diagnostics. In The Washington Consensus Reconsidered: Towards a New Global Governance. Oxford University Press, pp. 324-355.Abstract

Most well-trained economists would agree that the standard policy reforms included in the Washington Consensus have the potential to be growth promoting. What the experience of the last 15 years has shown, however, is that the impact of these reforms is heavily dependent on circumstances. Policies that work wonders in some places may have weak, unintended, or negative effects in others.1 We argue in this chapter that this calls for an approach to reform that is much more contingent on the economic environment, but one that also avoids an ‘anything goes’ attitude of nihilism. We show it is possible to develop a unified framework for analyzing and formulating growth strategies that is both operational and based on solid economic reasoning. The key step is to develop a better understanding of how the binding constraints on economic activity differ from setting to setting. This understanding can then be used to derive policy priorities accordingly, in a way that uses efficiently the scarce political capital of reformers.

serra8.pdf
Hausmann, R., Klinger, B. & Wagner, R., 2008. Doing Growth Diagnostics in Practice: A 'Mindbook'.Abstract

This paper systematizes the implementation of the Growth Diagnostics framework. It aims to give the meta-steps that a persuasive growth diagnosis should have, and elaborates on the strategies and methods that may be used. Rather than a step-by-step instruction manual or handbook, this paper is meant to be a ‘mindbook’, suggesting how to think about the problem of identifying a country’s constraints to growth.

177.pdf
Hausmann, R. & Klinger, B., 2008. Growth Diagnostics in Peru.Abstract

This paper presents a growth diagnostic of Peru. It notes that although Peru has recently enjoyed high rates of economic growth, this growth is actually a recovery from a significant and sustained growth collapse that began in the 1970s. The growth collapse was caused by a decline in export earnings due to the fall in international prices and an inadequate investment regime in export activities that led to a fall in market share. This situation led to collateral damage in the form of a balance of payments, fiscal and financial crisis, accompanied by hyperinflation and violence, but these aspects were corrected in the 1990s. However, the transformation of the export sector has been surprisingly small: the same activities that declined – mining and energy – are the ones that are leading the current recovery in exports to levels that in real per capita terms are similar to those achieved 30 years ago. We argue that the lack of structural transformation is associated with Peru’s position in a poorly connected part of the product space and this accentuates coordination failures in the movement to new activities. In addition, Peru’s current export package, is very capital intensive and generates few jobs, especially in urban areas where the bulk of the labor force is now located. This limits the welfare benefits of the current growth path. The key policy message is that the public sector must act to encourage the development of new export activities that better utilize the human resources of the country. This involves action on the macro front to achieve a more competitive real exchange rate, improvements in the capacity to solve coordination failures in the provision of specific public sector inputs and programs to stimulate investment in new tradable activities.

181.pdf
Hausmann, R., 2008. The Other Hand: High Bandwidth Development Policy.Abstract

Much of development policy has been based on the search for a short to do list that would get countries moving. In this paper I argue that economic activity requires a large and highly interacting set of public policies and services, which constitute inputs into the production process. This is reflected in the presence, in all countries, of hundreds of thousands of pages of legislation and hundreds of public agencies. Finding out what is the right mix of the public inputs, and more importantly, what is a valuable change from the current provision is as complex as determining what is the right mix of private provision of goods. In the latter case, economists agree that this process cannot be achieved through central planning and that the invisible hand of the market is the right approach, because it allows decisions to be made in a more decentralized manner with more information. I argue that a similar solution is required to deal with the complexity of the public policy mix.

179.pdf
2007
Hausmann, R. & Sturzenegger, F., 2007. The Valuation of Hidden Assets in Foreign Transactions: Why 'Dark Matter' Matters. Business Economics , 42 (1) , pp. 28-34. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper clarifies how the valuation of hidden assets—what we call “dark matter”—changes our assessment of the U.S. external imbalance. Dark matter assets are defined as the capitalized value of the return privilege obtained by U.S. assets. Because this return privilege has been steady over recent decades, it is likely to persist in the future or even to increase, as it becomes leveraged by an increasingly globalized world. Once this is included in future projections of U.S. current accounts, the U.S. external position looks much more balanced than depicted in official statistics.
Hausmann, R., Hwang, J. & Rodrik, D., 2007. What You Export Matters. Journal of Economic Growth , 12 (1) , pp. 1-25. Publisher's VersionAbstract
When local cost discovery generates knowledge spillovers, specialization patterns become partly indeterminate and the mix of goods that a country produces may have important implications for economic growth. We demonstrate this proposition formally and adduce some empirical support for it. We construct an index of the “income level of a country’s exports,” document its properties, and show that it predicts subsequent economic growth.
Hidalgo, C.A., et al., 2007. The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations. Science , 317 (5837) , pp. 482-487. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Economies grow by upgrading the products they produce and export. The technology, capital, institutions, and skills needed to make newer products are more easily adapted from some products than from others. Here, we study this network of relatedness between products, or “product space,” finding that more-sophisticated products are located in a densely connected core whereas less-sophisticated products occupy a less-connected periphery. Empirically, countries move through the product space by developing goods close to those they currently produce. Most countries can reach the core only by traversing empirically infrequent distances, which may help explain why poor countries have trouble developing more competitive exports and fail to converge to the income levels of rich countries.

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