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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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  • Christopher Blattman
  • Jason Hwang
  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

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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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 2040.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2040

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  8. Mendoza, Enrique G., 1997. "Terms-of-trade uncertainty and economic growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 323-356, December.
  9. Thomas, Duncan & Beegle, Kathleen & Frankenberg, Elizabeth & Sikoki, Bondan & Strauss, John & Teruel, Graciela, 2004. "Education in a crisis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 53-85, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Tena-Junguito, Antonio & Lampe, Markus & Fernandes, Felipe Tâmega, 2012. "How Much Trade Liberalization Was There in the World Before and After Cobden-Chevalier?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(03), pages 708-740, September.
  2. Sambit Bhattacharyya & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2013. "Distributional Impact of Commodity Price Shocks: Australia over a Century," OxCarre Working Papers 117, Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford.
  3. Sambit Bhattacharyya & Jeffrey G Williamson, 2010. "Commodity Price Shocks and the Australian Economy Since Federation," OxCarre Working Papers 041, Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford.
  4. David S. Jacks & Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2011. "Commodity Price Volatility and World Market Integration since 1700," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 800-813, August.
  5. Aiolfi, Marco & Catão, Luis A. V. & Timmermann, Allan G, 2010. "Common Factors in Latin America’s Business Cycles," CEPR Discussion Papers 7671, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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