For 30 years, Hermosillo has been wondering whether it has a future after Ford. Until the early 1980s, the city relied mainly on agricultural activity. When the multinational motor company arrived in this northwestern Mexican city in 1986, it changed the history of a region that up until that point had relied heavily on agriculture. The assembly plant was established and many auto parts suppliers sprang up, triggering industrialization and increasing the complexity of its economy, its productivity, and wages. Intensive manufacturing development turned Hermosillo into the fifth richest metropolitan area in Mexico in 1998.
Broadly speaking, this growth trajectory was maintained. In 2015, Hermosillo was in the top 5% of wealthiest municipalities, with poverty levels and informal employment rates significantly lower than in the rest of the country. But the economy of this city in Sonora State has clearly lost its dynamism over the past few years. Even in Mexico’s low-growth context during the period 2005-2015, growth in per capita gross domestic product in Hermosillo (1.3%) fell below the federal average (1.4%). Hermosillo’s relative performance during this decade was not uniform. Between 2005 and 2010, it grew at a rate of 1.3%, placing it in the 66th percentile (among the top 34% for growth rate) of all municipalities in Mexico. In the second half of the decade, Hermosillo barely reached 1.2% growth, falling to the 47th percentile (53% of Mexican municipalities grew more). The situation worsened in the years 2013-2015, when output per worker fell by 7.2%.
What happened in Hermosillo? Can the current economic structure sustain the municipality’s high wages and guarantee future growth? What policy interventions are needed?
Seeking answers to these questions, the Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development joined forces with the Inter-American Development Bank or IDB, in particular with its Emerging and Sustainable Cities Program (ESC). This program is a technical assistance initiative that provides support to regional governments to develop and execute urban sustainability projects. ESC’s goal is to contribute to priority urban interventions to provide the sustainable, harmonious growth of cities. This part of its vision is aligned with the idea of promoting inclusive growth and prosperity that guides the Growth Lab's research.
Does technology require labour mobility to diffuse? To explore this, we use German social-security data and ask how plants that pioneer an industry in a location – and for which the local labour market offers no experienced workers – assemble their workforces. These pioneers use different recruiting strategies than plants elsewhere: they hire more workers from outside their industry and from outside their region, especially when workers come from closely related industries or are highly skilled. The importance of access to experienced workers is highlighted in the diffusion of industries from western Germany to the post-reunification economy of eastern German. While manufacturing employment declined in most advanced economies, eastern German regions managed to reindustrialise. The pioneers involved in this process relied heavily on expertise from western Germany: while establishing new manufacturing industries in the East, they sourced half of their experienced workers from the West.
Governments in modern societies undertake an array of complex functions that shape politics and economics, individual and group behavior, and the natural, social, and built environment. How are governments structured to execute these diverse responsibilities? How do those structures vary, and what explains the differences? To examine these longstanding questions, we develop a technique for mapping Internet “footprint” of government with network science methods. We use this approach to describe and analyze the diversity in functional scale and structure among the 50 US state governments reflected in the webpages and links they have created online: 32.5 million webpages and 110 million hyperlinks among 47,631 agencies. We first verify that this extensive online footprint systematically reflects known characteristics: 50 hierarchically organized networks of state agencies that scale with population and are specialized around easily identifiable functions in accordance with legal mandates. We also find that the footprint reflects extensive diversity among these state functional hierarchies. We hypothesize that this variation should reflect, among other factors, state income, economic structure, ideology, and location. We find that government structures are most strongly associated with state economic structures, with location and income playing more limited roles. Voters’ recent ideological preferences about the proper roles and extent of government are not significantly associated with the scale and structure of their state governments as reflected online. We conclude that the online footprint of governments offers a broad and comprehensive window on how they are structured that can help deepen understanding of those structures.
Oaxaca is the second-poorest state in Mexico. It is also growing more slowly than the national average, leading to regional divergence. This paper seeks to diagnose the binding constraints that keep GDP growth in Oaxaca low.
There is significant variation in average monthly incomes within Oaxaca, with a 12x gap between the municipality with the highest salary and that with the lowest. Oaxaca has 570 municipalities, whereas given its population and the national average for people per municipality it should have 66. And it is very indigenous: 58% of the population speaks an indigenous language, compared to a national average of 15%. Oaxaca’s product space, a measure of how many kinds of industries provide employment in the state, is very low and has seen very limited change since 2004. The state shares some similarities with other states in southern Mexico, such as Chiapas and Guerrero. All three share a limited manufacturing base which, even after signing NAFTA, remained flat as a proportion of state GDP. They also have a poverty rate nearly 3 times the national average.
Oaxaca is a large state with a rugged natural landscape. Its population is highly dispersed, relative to other states in Mexico. This makes infrastructure critical. However, widespread road construction between 2004 and 2014 does not seem to have made a difference to either growth rates or economic complexity at the municipality level, suggesting the infrastructure constraint is not binding. We believe, however, that mobility might be. Transportation costs as a proportion of wages are very high, and are further increased by costly road blockages. This limits the flexibility of the labor force and the aggregation of talent.
Low human capital can reduce the social returns to investment. Even though education is contentious in the state’s politics, Oaxaca’s education gap has been falling over time relative to the national average and its neighbors. This relative increase in years of education, however, has not been translated into economic development. We find that returns to education in the state are very similar to the returns to education in the rest of Mexico and higher than returns to education in Chiapas. We also note that the proportion of schooling undertaken in private institutions is in line with that in other states with higher quality of education. Finally, a Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition suggests that education does not explain wage differentials between Oaxaca and other states. All this evidence suggests that education is not a binding constraint to growth in Oaxaca.
Governance challenges increase the risk of investing in Oaxaca. For instance, over 75% of the municipalities in Oaxaca are governed through Usos y Costumbres. Only 153 of the 570 municipalities use a government-run election to determine their leader, and out of those, four did not elect a municipal president in the June 2016 election due to internal conflicts. 146 municipalities lack a police service. While Usos y Costumbres is a key part of the local social contract, it creates problems, such as in contract enforceability. It also limits migration in and out of the state. We also observe a negative correlation between Usos y Costumbres and local wages that is not explained by factors like indigenous origin.
We also explore access to finance as a constraint to GDP growth. While enterprise surveys confirm that high interest rates, and distance to banks are a problem, Oaxaca’s microenterprises bypass these problems by borrowing from cajas de ahorro or local credit unions. However, most borrowing is destined for consumption rather than investment. We also observe that FDI flows into Oaxaca are very scarce. For these reasons, we believe the binding constraint in Oaxaca is not access to finance, but rather low returns to investment.
It is helpful to think whether there is an underlying syndrome that might explain the two binding constraints we identified: transportation costs and governance. One possible hypothesis is the isolation of people into very small communities that have very strong bonds within the community and very weak bonds outside of it. Oaxaca shows high variety in ethnic groups, languages, and government systems. On average, each municipality has 6,670 people, but there are 110 municipalities with less than 1,000 people. Elsewhere in Mexico, dispersed rural populations gradually converged into urban clusters around job opportunities. In Oaxaca, the process is not yet afoot because of a “productivity trap”, in which low productivity means urban salaries do not cover the costs of transportation or permanent moves, and dispersion keeps productivity low by failing to concentrate employees. Cultural diversity has a side effect of encouraging spatial dispersion and isolation, and of having hundreds of different sets of “rules of the game” covering the state’s population. Increasing the complexity of this economy requires breaking the trap by finding new business models (i.e., encouraging discovery) and coordinating economic activities.
Economic complexity analysis can point us to new industries that are feasible given Oaxaca’s productive capabilities and the existing constraints we discussed. While Oaxaca’s municipalities have among the least complex economies in the country, some industries stand out from our complexity analysis as potentially promising for Oaxaca. The end of the report singles out some industries for further analysis.
Urban areas with larger and more connected populations offer an auspicious environment for contagion processes such as the spread of pathogens. Empirical evidence reveals a systematic increase in the rates of certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with larger urban population size. However, the main drivers of these systemic infection patterns are still not well understood, and rampant urbanization rates worldwide makes it critical to advance our understanding on this front. Using confirmed-cases data for three STDs in US metropolitan areas, we investigate the scaling patterns of infectious disease incidence in urban areas. The most salient features of these patterns are that, on average, the incidence of infectious diseases that transmit with less ease– either because of a lower inherent transmissibility or due to a less suitable environment for transmission– scale more steeply with population size, are less predictable across time and more variable across cities of similar size. These features are explained, first, using a simple mathematical model of contagion, and then through the lens of a new theory of urban scaling. These frameworks help us reveal the links between the factors that determine the transmissibility of infectious diseases and the properties of their scaling patterns across cities.
The degree to which modern technologies are able to substitute for groups of job tasks has renewed fears of near-future technological unemployment. We argue that our knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) go beyond the specific tasks we do at the job, making us potentially more adaptable to technological change than feared. The disruptiveness of new technologies depends on the relationships between the job tasks susceptible to automation and our KSA. Here we first demonstrate that KSA are general human capital features while job tasks are not, suggesting that human capital is more transferrable across occupations than what job tasks would predict. In spite of this, we document a worrying pattern where automation is not randomly distributed across the KSA space – it is concentrated among occupations that share similar KSA. As a result, workers in these occupations are making longer skill transitions when changing occupations and have higher probability of unemployment.
The literature on income 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 between Chiapas and the other Mexican entities has shrunk while the income 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. Based on census data, we calculate the economic complexity index, a measure of the knowledge agglomeration embedded in the economic activities at a municipal level in Mexico. Economic complexity explains a larger fraction of the income gap than any individual factor. Our results suggest that chiapanecos are not the problem, the problem is Chiapas. These results hold when we extend our analysis to Mexico’s thirty-one federal entities, suggesting that place-specific determinants that have been overlooked in both the literature and policy, have a key role in the determination of income gaps.
Safe asset demand and currency manipulation increase the dollar and the U.S. current account deficit. Deficits in manufacturing trade cause dislocation and generate protectionism. Dynamic OLS results indicate that U.S. export elasticities exceed unity for automobiles, toys, wood, aluminum, iron, steel, and other goods. Elasticities for U.S. imports from China are close to one or higher for footwear, radios, sports equipment, lamps, and watches and exceed 0.5 for iron, steel, aluminum, miscellaneous manufacturing, and metal tools. Elasticities for U.S. imports from other countries are large for electrothermal appliances, radios, furniture, lamps, miscellaneous manufacturing, aluminum, automobiles, plastics, and other categories. Stock returns on many of these sectors also fall when the dollar appreciates. Several manufacturing industries are thus exposed to a strong dollar. Policymakers could weaken the dollar and deflect protectionist pressure by promoting the euro, the yen, and the renminbi as alternative reserve currencies.
Venezuela has seen an unprecedented exodus of people in recent months. In response to a dramatic economic downturn in which inflation is soaring, oil production tanking, and a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding, many Venezuelans are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. However, the lack of official numbers on emigration from the Venezuelan government, and receiving countries largely refusing to acknowledge a refugee status for affected people, it has been difficult to quantify the magnitude of this crisis. In this note we document how we use data from the social media service Twitter to measure the emigration of people from Venezuela. Using a simple statistical model that allows us to correct for a sampling bias in the data, we estimate that up to 2,9 million Venezuelans have left the country in the past year.
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.
Safe asset demand and currency manipulation increase the dollar and the U.S. current account deficit. Deficits in manufacturing trade cause dislocation and generate protectionism. Dynamic OLS results indicate that U.S. export elasticities exceed unity for automobiles, toys, wood, aluminum, iron, steel, and other goods. Elasticities for U.S. imports from China are close to one or higher for footwear, radios, sports equipment, lamps, and watches and exceed 0.5 for iron, steel, aluminum, miscellaneous manufacturing, and metal tools. Elasticities for U.S. imports from other countries are large for electrothermal appliances, radios, furniture, lamps, miscellaneous manufacturing, aluminum, automobiles, plastics, and other categories. For U.S. exports and especially for U.S. imports from China, trade in more sophisticated products are less sensitive to exchange rates. Stock returns on many of the sectors with high export and import elasticities also fall when the dollar appreciates. Several manufacturing industries are thus exposed to a strong dollar. Policymakers could weaken the dollar and deflect protectionist pressure by promoting the euro, the yen, and the renminbi as alternative reserve currencies.
This article provides an empirical assessment of global scientific mobility over the past four decades, based on bibliometric data. We find (i) an increasing diversity of origin and destination countries integrated in global scientific mobility, with (ii) the centre of gravity of scientific knowledge production and migration destinations moving continuously eastwards by about 1300 km per decade, (iii) an increase in average migration distances of scientists reflecting integration of global peripheries into the global science system, (iv) significantly lower mobility frictions for internationally mobile scientists compared to non-scientist migrants, (v) with visa restrictions establishing a statistically significant barrier affecting international mobility of scientists hampering the global diffusion of scientific knowledge.
Using a large individual-level survey spanning several years and more than 150 countries, we examine the importance of social networks in influencing individuals’ intention to migrate internationally and locally. We distinguish close social networks (composed of friends and family) abroad and at the current location, and broad social networks (composed of same-country residents with intention to migrate, either internationally or locally). We find that social networks abroad are the most important driving forces of international migration intentions, with close and broad networks jointly explaining about 37% of variation in the probability intentions. Social networks are found to be more important factors driving migration intentions than work-related aspects or wealth (wealth accounts for less than 3% of the variation). In addition, we find that having stronger close social networks at home has the opposite effect by reducing the likelihood of migration intentions, both internationally and locally.
In August 2016, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Building State Capability program of CID convened five teams of civil servants, tasking them with solving issues related to investment and export promotion. One of these teams, the “Targeting Team,” took on the task of formulating and executing a plan to identify promising new economic activities for investment and export promotion in Sri Lanka. With the assistance of CID’s Growth Lab, the Targeting Team assembled and analyzed over 100 variables from 22 datasets, studying all tradable activities and 29 representative subsectors. Their analysis highlighted the potential of investment related to electronics, electrical equipment and machinery (including automotive products), as well as tourism. Ultimately, the team’s recommendations were incorporated in GoSL strategies for investment promotion, export development, and economic diplomacy; extensions of the research were also used to help plan new export processing zones and target potential anchor investors.
This report summarizes the methodology and findings of the Targeting Team, including scorecards for each of the sectors studied.
Economies grow by adding new products and services to their production portfolio, not by producing more of the same kinds of products. The key to such diversification is access to know-how, but know-how often has to come from abroad. This is because it is often easier to move brains to new countries than to move new know-how into brains. In the experience of Singapore, India, Vietnam and most other dynamic economies, three channels of know-how transfer stand out: FDI, immigration and diaspora networks.
In this lecture, Professor Hausmann explores the relationship between economic development and the accumulation of know-how. In particular, he discusses how to tackle Sri Lanka’s limited export diversification.
Video - Acessing Know-how for Growth in Sri Lanka
Video - Full Q&A on Sri Lanka's export diversification
This note collects evidence related to possible constraints to economic growth, and their relation with GoSL’s industrial zone development agenda. We find that new zones are especially well-suited to help address Sri Lanka’s lack of industrial land and high policy uncertainty, both of which may be holding back growth. Less clear, however, are zones’ impact on Sri Lanka’s limited transport links beyond the Western Province. Finally, partnering with well-connected zone management companies may also help create opportunities to connect with firms in new, non-traditional sectors.
International aid is a complex system: it involves different issues, countries, and donors. In this paper, we use web crawling to collect information about the activities of international aid organizations on different health-related topics and network analysis to depict this complex system of relationships among organizations. By systematically collecting co-occurrences of issues, countries, and organization names from more than a hundred websites, we are able to construct multilayer networks describing, for instance, which issues are related to each other according to which organizations. Our results show that there is a surprising amount of homophily among organizations: organizations of the same type (multilateral, bilateral, private donors, etc.) tend to be co-cited in groups. We also create a taxonomy of issues that are generally mentioned together. Finally, we perform simulations, showing that messages originating from different organizations in the international aid community can have a different reach.
Setting a country’s structural growth rate on a higher path, i.e. sparking and sustaining a growth acceleration can have quantitatively huge implications for national income and, more broadly, for people’s wellbeing. We develop a novel statistical framework to identify systematically the set of binding constraints that were unlocked before the 135 growth acceleration episodes that took place between 1962 and 2002 worldwide. We employ this information to characterise the acceleration process, which tends to be preceded by a deep recession and major economic policy changes. Once we combined this information with a set of counterfactual analyses, we find however that successful acceleration strategies should not contain off-the-shelf approaches or necessarily all-encompassing “shock therapy” solutions. On the other hand, they call for a careful tailoring to local conditions. Richer countries tend to experience fewer accelerations, but once these have been ignited, they are better positioned to make the most out of them. Despite standard growth determinants doing a fairly good job at characterising successful accelerations, we note how take-offs remain extremely hard to engineer with a high degree of certainty.