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Country Diversification, Product Ubiquity, and Economic Divergence

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  • Hausmann, Ricardo

    (Harvard Kennedy School)

  • Hidalgo, Cesar A.

    (Harvard Kennedy School)

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 a quiescence 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Hausmann, Ricardo & Hidalgo, Cesar A., 2010. "Country Diversification, Product Ubiquity, and Economic Divergence," Working Paper Series rwp10-045, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp10-045
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Baldwin, 2014. "WTO 2.0: Governance of 21st century trade," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 261-283, June.
    2. Ron Boschma & Gianluca Capone, 2014. "Relatedness and Diversification in the EU-27 and ENP countries," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1407, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Feb 2014.
    3. Nicola Cortinovis & Frank Oort, 2015. "Variety, economic growth and knowledge intensity of European regions: a spatial panel analysis," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 55(1), pages 7-32, October.
    4. Clovis Freire, "undated". "Productive Capacities in Asia and the Pacific," MPDD Working Paper Series WP/11/17, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
    5. Clovis Freire, "undated". "Building Productive Capacities: Challenges and Opportunities for Least Developed Countries," MPDD Working Paper Series WP/12/02, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
    6. Felipe, Jesus & Kumar, Utsav & Abdon, Arnelyn & Bacate, Marife, 2012. "Product complexity and economic development," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 36-68.
    7. Ron Boschma & Asier Minondo & Mikel Navarro, 2013. "The Emergence of New Industries at the Regional Level in S pain: A Proximity Approach Based on Product Relatedness," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 89(1), pages 29-51, January.
    8. Sergey Kadochnikov & Anna Fedyunina, 2013. "Export diversification in the product space and regional growth: Evidence from Russia," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1327, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Dec 2013.
    9. Colombelli, Alessandra & Krafft, Jackie & Quatraro, Francesco, 2014. "The emergence of new technology-based sectors in European regions: A proximity-based analysis of nanotechnology," Research Policy, Elsevier, pages 1681-1696.
    10. Montresor, Sandro & Francesco, Quatraro, 2015. "Do Key Enabling Technologies shape regional Smart Specialization Strategies? A patent based analysis of European data," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201517, University of Turin.
    11. Jing Xiao & Ron Boschma & Martin Andersson, 2016. "Resilience in the European Union: the effect of the 2008 crisis on the ability of regions in Europe to develop new industrial specializations," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1608, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Apr 2016.
    12. Ron Boschma & Pierre-Alexandre Balland & Dieter Franz Kogler, 2015. "Relatedness and technological change in cities: the rise and fall of technological knowledge in US metropolitan areas from 1981 to 2010," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, pages 223-250.
    13. Fabio Saracco & Riccardo Di Clemente & Andrea Gabrielli & Luciano Pietronero, 2015. "From innovation to diversification: a simple competitive model," Papers 1508.03571, arXiv.org, revised Nov 2015.
    14. Alessandra Colombelli & Jackie Krafft & Francesco Quatraro, 2012. "The emergence of new technology-based sectors at the regional level: a proximity-based analysis of nanotechnology," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1211, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jun 2012.
    15. Andrea Zaccaria & Matthieu Cristelli & Roland Kupers & Andrea Tacchella & Luciano Pietronero, 2016. "A case study for a new metrics for economic complexity: The Netherlands," Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, Springer;Society for Economic Science with Heterogeneous Interacting Agents, vol. 11(1), pages 151-169, April.
    16. C. A. Hidalgo & B. Klinger & A. -L. Barabasi & R. Hausmann, 2007. "The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations," Papers 0708.2090, arXiv.org.
    17. repec:elg:eechap:14395_12 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Verspagen, Bart & Kaltenberg, Mary, 2015. "Catching-up in a globalised context: Technological change as a driver of growth," MERIT Working Papers 049, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    19. Frank Van Oort, 2013. "Agglomeration Economics Beyond the Specialisation-Diversity Controversy," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1313, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Aug 2013.
    20. Daniel Lederman & William F. Maloney, 2012. "Does What You Export Matter? In Search of Empirical Guidance for Industrial Policies," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 9371.
    21. Martijn van den Berge & Anet Weterings, 2014. "Relatedness in eco-technological development in European regions," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1413, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Jun 2014.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • F47 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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