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The Recent Growth Boom in Developing Economies: A Structural Change Perspective

Listed author(s):
  • Xinshen Diao
  • Margaret McMillan
  • Dani Rodrik

Growth has accelerated in a wide range of developing countries over the last couple of decades, resulting in an extraordinary period of convergence with the advanced economies. We analyze this experience from the lens of structural change – the reallocation of labor from low- to high-productivity sectors. Patterns of structural change differ greatly in the recent growth experience. In contrast to the East Asian experience, none of the recent growth accelerations in Latin America, Africa, or South Asia was driven by rapid industrialization. Beyond that, we document that recent growth accelerations were based on either rapid within-sector labor productivity growth (Latin America) or growth-increasing structural change (Africa), but rarely both at the same time. The African experience is particularly intriguing, as growth-enhancing structural change appears to have come typically at the expense of declining labor productivity growth in the more modern sectors of the economy. We explain this anomaly by arguing that the forces that promoted structural change in Africa originated on the demand side, through either external transfers or increase in agricultural incomes. In contrast to Asia, structural change was the result of increased demand for goods and services produced in the modern sectors of the economy rather than productivity improvements in these sectors.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23132.

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Date of creation: Feb 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23132
Note: DEV EFG PR
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  1. Margarida Duarte & Diego Restuccia, 2010. "The Role of the Structural Transformation in Aggregate Productivity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 129-173.
  2. Robert M. Solow, 1956. "A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 65-94.
  3. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-92-3 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Gaaitzen de Vries & Marcel Timmer & Klaas de Vries, 2015. "Structural Transformation in Africa: Static Gains, Dynamic Losses," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(6), pages 674-688, June.
  5. Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1992. "Agricultural productivity, comparative advantage, and economic growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 317-334, December.
  6. Mundlak, Yair & Butzer, Rita & Larson, Donald F., 2012. "Heterogeneous technology and panel data: The case of the agricultural production function," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 139-149.
  7. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "Sex Ratios, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth in the People's Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 16800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. McCullough, Ellen B., 2017. "Labor productivity and employment gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 133-152.
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