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How Big Are the Benefits of Economic Diversification? Evidence from Earthquakes

  • Rodney Ramcharan

Economic activity is risky. Returns across economic sectors can be highly variable, potentially causing costly adjustments to consumption. However, when returns are imperfectly correlated across sectors and insurance is unavailable, diversification can reduce the economic impact of shocks. Therefore, despite the well-known efficiency benefits from specialization, the risks of too little diversification have long been acknowledged. But how big are the benefits of diversification? This paper exploits the exogeneity and randomness of earthquakes to address this question. There is robust evidence that more specialized economies experience larger declines in consumption when earthquakes occur, and consistent with the insurance channel, the cost of specialization is smaller in more financially developed economies.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 05/48.

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Length: 32
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:05/48
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  1. Imbs, Jean & Wacziarg, Romain, 2000. "Stages of Diversification," CEPR Discussion Papers 2642, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Bekaert, Geert & Harvey, Campbell R. & Lundblad, Christian, 2006. "Growth volatility and financial liberalization," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 370-403, April.
  3. Allan D. Brunner, 1998. "El Nino and world primary commodity prices: warm water or hot air?," International Finance Discussion Papers 608, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Bent E. Sorensen & Oved Yosha, 1999. "Risk Sharing and Industrial Specialization: Regional and International Evidence," JCPR Working Papers 86, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  5. Brainard, William C. & Cooper, Richard N., 1968. "Uncertainty and Diversification in International Trade," Food Research Institute Studies, Stanford University, Food Research Institute, issue 03.
  6. Kemp, Murray C & Liviatan, Nissan, 1973. "Production and Trade Patterns under Uncertainty," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 49(126), pages 215-27, June.
  7. Maurice Obstfeld, 1992. "Risk-Taking, Global Diversification, and Growth," NBER Working Papers 4093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. van Wincoop, Eric, 1999. "How big are potential welfare gains from international risksharing?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 109-135, February.
  9. Paxson, Christina H, 1992. "Using Weather Variability to Estimate the Response of Savings to Transitory Income in Thailand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 15-33, March.
  10. Kalemli-Ozcan, Sebnem & Sorensen, Bent E. & Yosha, Oved, 2001. "Economic integration, industrial specialization, and the asymmetry of macroeconomic fluctuations," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 107-137, October.
  11. Saint-Paul, G., 1990. "Technological Choice, Financial Markets and Economic Development," DELTA Working Papers 90-30, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  12. Krugman, Paul R., 1979. "Increasing returns, monopolistic competition, and international trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-479, November.
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