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The Impact of the Terms of Trade on Economic Development in the Periphery, 1870-1939: Volatility and Secular Change

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  • Blattman, Christopher
  • Hwang, Jason
  • Williamson, Jeffrey G

Abstract

Most countries in the periphery specialized in the export of just a handful of primary products for most of their history. Some of these commodities have been more volatile than others, and those with more volatile prices have grown slowly relative both to the industrial leaders and to other primary product exporters. This fact helps explain the growth puzzle noted by Easterly, Kremer, Pritchett and Summers more than a decade ago: that the contending fundamental determinants of growth - institutions, geography and culture - exhibit far more persistence than do the growth rates they are supposed to explain. Using a new panel database for 35 countries, this paper estimates the impact of terms of trade volatility and secular change on country performance between 1870 and 1939. Volatility was much more important for accumulation and growth than was secular change. Additionally, both effects were asymmetric between Core and Periphery, findings that speak directly to the terms of trade debates that have raged since Prebisch and Singer wrote more than 50 years ago. The paper also investigates one channel of impact, and finds that foreign capital inflows declined steeply where commodity prices were volatile.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5073.

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Date of creation: May 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5073

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Keywords: growth; periphery; terms of trade; volatility;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Sambit Bhattacharyya & Jeffrey G Williamson, 2009. "Commodity Price Shocks and the Australian Economy since Federation," Departmental Working Papers 2009-02, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
  2. Aiolfi, Marco & Catão, Luis A.V. & Timmermann, Allan, 2011. "Common factors in Latin America's business cycles," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(2), pages 212-228, July.
  3. Sambit Bhattacharyya & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2013. "Distributional Impact of Commodity Price Shocks: Australia over a Century," CSAE Working Paper Series 2013-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  4. Antonio Tena Junguito & Markus Lampe & Felipe Tâmega, 2012. "How much trade liberalization was there in the world before and after Cobden-Chevalier?," Working Papers in Economic History wp12-02, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.
  5. David S. Jacks & Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "Commodity Price Volatility and World Market Integration since 1700," NBER Working Papers 14748, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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