Structural Reforms and Elections: Evidence from a World-Wide New Dataset, with Alberto F. Alesina, Davide Furceri, Jonathan D. Ostry and Dennis P. Quinn

Journal of the European Economic Association, forthcoming. Download PDF file | Data.


We present two new databases we have constructed to explore the electoral consequences of structural economic policy reforms. One database measures reform in domestic finance, external finance, trade, product, and labor markets covering 90 advanced and developing economies, from 1973 to 2014. The other chronicles the timing and results of national elections. We find that liberalizing reforms are associated with economic benefits that accrue only gradually over time. Because of this delay, liberalizing reforms are costly to democratic incumbents when implemented close to elections. Electoral outcomes also depend on the state of the economy: reforms are penalized during contractions but are often rewarded in expansions.

Monetary Policy Under Natural Disaster Shocks, with Alessandro Cantelmo, Nikos Fatouros and Giovanni Melina

International Economic Review, forthcoming. Download PDF file.


With climate change increasing the frequency and intensity of natural disasters, what should central banks do in response to these catastrophic events? Looking at IMF reports for 34 disaster-years, which occurred in 16 disaster-prone countries from 1999 to 2017, reveals lack of any systematic approach to monetary authorities’ response to climate shocks. Using a standard small-open-economy New-Keynesian model with disaster shocks, we show that consistent with textbook theory, inflation targeting remains the welfare-optimal regime. Therefore, the best strategy for monetary authorities is to resist the impulse of accommodating in the face of catastrophic natural disasters, and rather continue to focus on price stability.

Preferences for Reforms: Endowments vs. Beliefs, with Romain Duval Yi JiIppei Shibata and Antonio Spilimbergo

Economic Policy, forthcoming. Download PDF file.


Are preferences for reforms driven by individuals’ own endowments or beliefs? To address this question, we conducted a cross-country survey on people’s opinions on employment protection legislation—an area where reform has proven to be difficult and personal interests are at stake. We find that individuals’ beliefs matter more than their own endowments and personal pay-offs. A randomized information treatment confirms that beliefs explain views about reform, but beliefs can change with new information. Our results are robust to several robustness tests, including to alternative estimation techniques and samples.

Macroeconomic Outcomes in Disaster-Prone Countries, with Alessandro Cantelmo and Giovanni Melina

Journal of Development Economics, March 2023. Download PDF file.


Using a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model, we study the channels through which weather shocks affect macroeconomic outcomes and welfare in disaster-prone countries. We solve the model using Taylor projection, which deals effectively with high-impact weather shocks calibrated in accordance to empirical evidence. We find large and persistent effects of weather shocks that significantly impact the income convergence path of disaster-prone countries. For these countries, on average, weather shocks cause a welfare loss equivalent to a permanent fall in consumption of 1.24 percent, relative to non-disaster-prone countries. Finally, we examine policies that mitigate the adverse welfare effects. Welfare gains from investing in resilience infrastructure are tiny, if disaster-prone countries have to fully bear its extra cost. International aid yields significant welfare gains. However, to achieve a given welfare gain, it is more cost-effective for donors to contribute to the financing of resilience before the realization of disasters, rather than disbursing aid ex post.

Will the AI Revolution Cause a Great Divergence? with Cristian Alonso, Andrew Berg, Siddharth Kothari and Sidra Rehman

Journal of Monetary Economics, April 2022. Download PDF file.


This paper considers the implications for developing countries of a new wave of technological change that substitutes pervasively for labor. It makes simple and plausible assumptions: 7 the AI revolution can be modeled as an increase in productivity of a distinct type of capital 8 that substitutes closely with labor; and the only fundamental difference between the advanced 9 and developing country is the level of TFP. This set-up is minimalist, but the resulting conclusions are powerful: improvements in the productivity of “robots” drive divergence, as advanced 11 countries differentially benefit from their initially higher robot intensity, driven by their endogenously higher wages and stock of complementary traditional capital. In addition, capital—if 13 internationally mobile—is pulled “uphill”, resulting in a transitional GDP decline in the developing country. In an extended model where robots substitute only for unskilled labor, the terms 15 of trade, and hence GDP, may decline permanently for the country relatively well-endowed in 16 unskilled labor.

Populism and Civil Society, with Tito Boeri, Prachi Mishra and Antonio Spilimbergo

Economica, October 2021. Download PDF file.


Since Tocqueville (1835), civil society has been recognized as a cornerstone of liberal democracy. But populists claim to be the only legitimate representatives of the people, leaving no space for civil society. Are populism and civil society enemies? To answer this question, we look at voters’ choices in Europe. We find that individuals belonging to associations are less likely by 1.6–2.8 percentage points to vote for populist parties, which is large considering that the average vote share for populist parties is between 12% and 22%. This result survives a large number of robustness checks.

Policies in Hard Times: Assessing the Impact of Financial Crises on Structural Reforms, with Gunes Gokmen, Massimiliano Onorato and Tommaso Nannicini

Economic Journal, August 2021. Download PDF file.


It is commonly argued that crises open up a window of opportunity to implement policies that otherwise would not have the necessary political backing. The argument goes that the political cost of economic and social reforms declines as crises unravel structural problems that need to be urgently rectified and the public is more willing to bear the pains associated with such reforms. This paper casts doubt on this prevalent view by showing that not only the crises-reforms nexus is unfounded in the data, but rather crises are associated with a reversal of liberalization interventions depending on the institutional environment. In particular, we look at measures of liberalization in international trade, agriculture, network industries, and financial markets. We find that, in democratic countries, crises occurrences have no significant impact on liberalization measures. On the contrary, after a crisis, autocracies reduce liberalization in multiple economic sectors, which we interpret as the fear of regime change leading non-democratic rulers to please vested economic interests.

Re-Opening After the Lockdown: Long-run Aggregate and Distributional Consequences of COVID-19, with Manoj Atolia and Stephen Turnovsky

Journal of Mathematical Economics, March 2021. Download PDF file.


Covid-19 has dealt a devastating blow to productivity and economic growth. We employ a general equilibrium framework with heterogeneous agents to identify the tradeoffs involved in restoring the economy to its pre-Covid-19 state. Several tradeoffs, both over time, and between key economic variables, are identified, with the feasible speed of successful re-opening being constrained by the transmission of the infection. In particular, while more rapid opening up of the economy will reduce short-run aggregate output losses, it will cause larger long-run output losses, which potentially may be quite substantial if the opening is overly rapid and the virus is not eradicated. More rapid opening of the economy mitigates the increases in both long-run wealth and income inequality, thus highlighting a direct conflict between the adverse effects on aggregate output and its distributional consequences.

Taxation and Public Health Investment: Policy Choices and Tradeoffs, with Manoj Atolia and Stephen Turnovsky

Macroeconomic Dynamics, March 2021. Download PDF file.


In recent years, there has been an explosive increase in the demand for health products and services by people all around the globe, and particularly in advanced economies. Aiming to enhance longevity and also to improve quality of life, individual consumption of pharmaceutical products and services has risen exponentially since the early 1980s. This paper develops a model in which agents invest part of their resources in medical products and time in physical exercise to enhance their health status. In the first part of the paper, we study the steady state and transitional dynamics of the model with special emphasis on the effects of health decisions on aggregate outcomes. In the second part, we explore how public health policies may alter private economic decisions that promote healthier and more productive lives.

Export Quality in Advanced and Developing Economies: Evidence from a New Dataset, with Christian Henn, Jose Romero and Nikola Spatafora

IMF Economic Review, June 2020. Download PDF file | Data.


This paper develops new estimates of export quality, based on bilateral data, which are far more extensive than previous efforts. The data cover 166 countries and more than 800 products over the period 1962–2014. The analysis finds that, within any given product line, export quality on average converges rapidly across countries. However, there is also significant cross-country heterogeneity in the growth rate of quality. Institutional quality, liberal trade policies, foreign direct investment inflows, and human capital all promote quality upgrading, although their impacts vary across sectors.

What Remains of Cross-Country Convergence? with Paul Johnson

Journal of Economic Literature, March 2020. Download PDF file.


We examine the record of cross-country growth over the past 50 years and ask if developing countries have made progress on closing income gap between their per capita incomes and those in the advanced economies. We conclude that, as a group, they have not and then survey the literature on absolute convergence with particular emphasis on that from the last decade or so. That literature supports our conclusion of a lack of progress in closing the income gap between countries. We close with a brief examination of the recent literature on cross-individual distribution of income which finds that, despite the lack of progress on cross country convergence, global inequality has tended to fall since 2000.

On the Substitution of Private and Public Capital, with Zidong An and Alvar Kangur

European Economic Review, September 2019. Download PDF file | Data.


Most macroeconomic models assume that aggregate output is generated by a specification for the production function with total physical capital as a key input. Implicitly this assumes that private and public capital stocks are perfect substitutes. In this paper we test this assumption by estimating a nested-CES production function whereas the two types of capital are considered separately along with labor as inputs. The estimation is based on our newly developed dataset on public and private capital stocks for 151 countries over a period of 1960-2014 consistent with Penn World Table version 9. We find evidence against perfect substitutability between public and private capital, especially for emerging and LIDCs, with the point estimate of the elasticity of substitution estimated closely around 3.

Forecasts in Times of Crises, with Charis Christofides, David Kuenzel and Theo Eicher

International Journal of Forecasting, July 2019. Download PDF file | Data.


Financial crises pose unique challenges for forecast accuracy. Using the IMF’s Monitoring of Fund Arrangement (MONA) database, we conduct the most comprehensive evaluation of IMF forecasts to date for countries in times of crises. We examine 29 macroeconomic variables in terms of bias, efficiency, and information content to find that IMF forecasts add substantial informational value as they consistently outperform naive forecast approaches. However, we also document that there is room for improvement: two thirds of the key macroeconomic variables that we examine are forecast inefficiently and 6 variables (growth of nominal GDP, public investment, private investment, the current account, net transfers, and government expenditures) exhibit significant forecast bias. Forecasts for low-income countries are the main drivers of forecast bias and inefficiency, reflecting perhaps larger shocks and lower data quality. When we decompose the forecast errors into their sources, we find that forecast errors for private consumption growth are the key contributor to GDP growth forecast errors. Similarly, forecast errors for non-interest expenditure growth and tax revenue growth are crucial determinants of the forecast errors in the growth of fiscal budgets. Forecast errors for balance of payments growth are significantly influenced by forecast errors in goods import growth. The results highlight which macroeconomic aggregates require further attention in future forecast models for countries in crises.

The Public and Private Marginal Product of Capital, with Matt Lowe and Fidel Perez-Sebastian

Economica, April 2019. Download PDF file | Data.


Why doesn’t capital flow to developing countries as predicted by the neoclassical model? What are the direction and degree of capital misallocation across nations? We revisit these questions by removing public capital from total capital to achieve a more accurate estimate of the marginal productivity of private capital. We calculate MPK schedules in a large sample of advanced and developing countries. Our main result is that, in terms of the Lucas paradox, private capital is allocated remarkably efficiently across nations. Tentative estimates of the marginal productivity of public capital suggest that the deadweight loss from public capital misallocation across countries can be much larger than the one from private capital.

Building Resilience to Natural Disasters: An Application to Natural Disasters, with Ricardo Marto and Vladimir Klyuev

Journal of Development Economics, November 2018. Download PDF file.


We present a dynamic small open economy model to explore the macroeconomic impact of natural disasters. In addition to permanent damages to public and private capital, the disaster causes temporary losses of productivity, inefficiencies during the reconstruction process, and damages to the sovereign's creditworthiness. We use the model to study the debt sustainability concerns that arise from the need to rebuild public infrastructure over the medium term and analyze the feasibility of ex ante policies, such as building adaptation infrastructure and fiscal buffers, and contrast these policies with the post-disaster support provided by donors. Investing in resilient infrastructure may prove useful, in particular if it is viewed as complementary to standard infrastructure, because it raises the marginal product of private capital, crowding in private investment, while helping withstand the impact of the natural disaster. In an application to Vanuatu, we find that donors should provide an additional 50% of pre-cyclone GDP in grants to be spent over the following 15 years to ensure public debt remains sustainable following Cyclone Pam. Helping the government build resilience on the other hand, reduces the risk of debt distress and at lower cost for donors. 

A Dialogue between a Populist and an Economist, with Tito Boeri, Prachi Mishra and Antonio Spilimbergo

AEA Papers & Proceeding, May 2018. Download PDF file.


Excerpt from an imaginary dialogue between a populist and an economist. The note tries to clarify key misconceptions that exists in the economics profession on the use of the term ‘populism’. A lot is new on how to think about populism in economics, and much can be learned from the work of other social scientists, especially political scientists, who have been concerned with the issue for decades.

Evolution of Bilateral Capital Flows to Developing Countries at Intensive and Extensive Margins, with Juliana Araujo, and Povilas Lastauskas

Journal of Money Credit and Banking, September 2017. Download PDF file | Supplement.


The capital flows network has changed substantially, bringing new investors and target economies into play. Related, a recent intensification of capital flows to low income countries (LICs) has posed a number of questions. Most importantly, the very nature of those flows and important factors affecting foreign investors decision which can ultimately affect growth prospects of low income countries (together with an issue of sustainability) remain open for an academic probe. Due to an existence of a share of costs which is fixed in nature, there is a need to analyze capital flows and their evolution at two margins: intensive and extensive. This paper presents a parsimonious theoretical account that is consequently mapped into an econometric framework where we allow for two-tier decisions and cross-sectional dependence. Results indicate that market entry costs affect investment decisions pertinent to the LICs, consistently with the static theory. However, persistence in extensive margin eliminates this effect once dynamics is allowed for.

Non-FDI Capital Inflows in Low-Income Countries: Catching the Wave? with Juliana Araujo, Antonio David, and Carlos van Hombeeck

IMF Economic Review, June 2017. Download PDF file | Data.


Low-income countries (LICs) are typically characterized by intermittent and very modest access to private external funding sources. Motivated by recent developments in private flows to LICs this paper makes two contributions: First, it constructs a new comprehensive dataset on gross private capital flows with special focus on non-FDI flows in LICs. Concentrating on LICs and more specifically on gross non-FDI private flows is intentionally aimed at closing a gap in existing datasets where country coverage of developing economies is limited mainly to emerging markets (EMs). Second, using the new data it identifies several shifting patterns of gross non-FDI private inflows to LICs. A surprising fact emerges: since the mid 2000's period of surges in non-FDI private inflows in LICs are broadly comparable to those of EMs. Moreover, while non-FDI inflows to LICs are on average much lower than those to EMs, we show that gross non-FDI inflows to the top quartile of LICs are comparable to those of the median EM and converging to the top quartile of EMs.

Elasticity of Substitution between Clean and Dirty Energy Inputs: A Macroeconomic Perspective, with Marianne Saam and Patrick Schulte

Review of Economics and Statistics, May 2017.Download PDF file | Data.


In macroeconomic models the elasticity of substitution between clean and dirty energy inputs is a central parameter in assessing the conditions necessary for promoting green growth. Using new sectoral data in a panel of 26 countries, we formulate specifications of nested CES production functions that allow estimating, for the first time, the elasticity of substitution between clean and dirty energy inputs. We present evidence that this parameter significantly exceeds unity which is a favorable condition for promoting green growth.

Joining the Club? Procyclicality of Private Capital Inflows in Lower Income Developing Economies, with Juliana Araujo, Antonio David, and Carlos van Hombeeck

Journal of International Money and Finance, February 2017. Download PDF file.


Using a newly developed dataset this paper examines the cyclicality of private capital inflows to low-income developing countries (LIDCs). The empirical analysis shows that capital inflows to LIDCs are procyclical, yet considerably less procyclical than flows to more advanced economies. The analysis also suggests that flows to LIDCs are more persistent than inflows to emerging markets (EMs). There is also evidence that changes in risk aversion are a significant correlate of private capital inflows with the expected sign, but LIDCs seem to be less sensitive to changes in global risk aversion than EMs. A host of robustness checks to alternative estimation methods and control variables confirm the baseline results. In terms of policy implications, these findings suggest that private capital inflows are likely to become more procyclical as LIDCs move along the development path, which could render the conduct of countercyclical monetary and fiscal policies more challenging in these economies.

Did Established Early Warning Signals Predict the 2008 Crises?, with Theo Eicher and Charis Christofides

European Economic Review, January 2016. Download PDF file | Data.


Over the past 60 years, a voluminous literature has painstakingly developed theories and associated candidate regressors to motivate Early Warning Signals of economic crises. The hallmark of this literature is the consistency with which selected Early Warning Signals, such as the level of reserves and exchange rate appreciations, are thought to predict different types of crises across countries and time. The diversity of theories motivating Early Warning Signals presents, however, a challenge to empirical implementations. Given that the true model of Early Warning Signals is unknown, omitted variable bias may contaminate estimates and model uncertainty inflates confidence levels when the uncertainty surrounding a particular theory has been ignored. Addressing model uncertainty in Early Warning Signal regressions, we do not find a single regressor that successfully alerts to all dimensions of the 2008 crisis. Instead, distinct sets of Early Warning Signals identify different dimensions of the crisis (Banking, Balance of Payments, Exchange Rate Pressure, and Recession).

Battling Infection, Fighting Stagnation, with Shankha Chakraborty and Fidel Perez-Sebastian

Macroeconomic Dynamics, January 2016. Download PDF file.


Why are some countries mired in poverty and ill health? Can policy facilitate their transition to sustained growth and better living standards? We offer answers using a dynamic model of disease and development. Endogenous transmission of infectious disease generates non-ergodic growth where income alone cannot push a country out of a low-growth development trap. Policy interventions, for example external aid, can successfully accelerate growth only when directed towards improving health and eliminating the burden of infectious disease. Prioritizing improvements to adult mortality over morbidity is better for development.

Efficiency-Adjusted Public Capital and Growth, with Sanjeev Gupta, Alvar Kangur and Abdoul Wane

World Development, May 2014. Download PDF file | Data.


This paper constructs an efficiency-adjusted public capital stock series and re-examines the public capital and growth relationship. The paper also examines the effects of four specific stages of the public investment process - appraisal, selection, implementation and evaluation - on capital accumulation and growth. The results show that public capital is a significant contributor to economic growth. Although the estimated coefficient for the income share of public capital is larger in middle- than in low-income countries, the opposite is true for the marginal product of public capital. The quality of public investment, as measured by variables capturing the adequacy of project selection and implementation, are statistically significant in explaining variations in economic growth, a result mainly driven by low-income countries.

Who Benefits from Financial Development? New Methods, New Evidence, with Daniel Henderson and Christopher Parmeter

European Economic Review, October 2013. Download PDF file | Data1 | Data2.


This paper takes a fresh look at the impact of financial development on economic growth by using recently developed generalized kernel methods that allow for heterogeneity in partial effects, nonlinearities, and endogenous regressors. Our results suggest that while the positive impact of financial development on growth has increased over time, it is also highly nonlinear with more developed nations benefiting while low-income countries do not benefit at all. This finding contributes to the ongoing policy debate as to whether low-income nations should scale up financial reforms.

Which Reforms Work and under What Institutional Environment: Evidence from a New Dataset on Structural Reforms, with Alessandro Prati and Massimiliano Onorato

Review of Economics and Statistics, July 2013. Download PDF file | Data.


Are structural reforms growth enhancing? Is the effectiveness of reforms constrained by a country's distance from the technology frontier or by its institutional environment? This paper takes a new and comprehensive look at these questions by employing a novel dataset that includes several kinds of real (trade, agriculture and networks) and financial (domestic finance, banking, securities, and capital account) reforms for an extensive list of developed and developing countries, going back to the early 1970s. First pass evidence based on growth breaks analysis and on panel growth regressions suggests that on average both real- and financial-sector reforms are positively associated with higher growth. However, in several occasions botched reforms resulted in growth disasters. More importantly, the positive reform-growth relationship is shown to be highly heterogeneous and to be influenced by a country's constraints on the authority of the executive power and by its distance from the technology frontier. Finally, there is some evidence that crises (defined as severe growth downturns) are associated with subsequent reform upticks.

Rising Income Inequality: Technology, or Trade and Financial Globalization?, with Florence Jaumotte, and Subir Lall

IMF Economic Review, June 2013. Download PDF file | Data | Data Description.


We examine the relationship between the rapid pace of trade and financial globalization and the rise in income inequality observed in most countries over the past two decades. Using a newly compiled panel of 51 countries over a 23 year period from 1981-2003, we report estimates that support a greater impact of technological progress than globalization on inequality. The limited overall impact of globalization reflects two offsetting tendencies: whereas trade globalization is associated with a reduction in inequality, financial globalization - and foreign direct investment in particular - is associated with an increase in inequality.

Is Newer Better? Penn World Table Revisions and Their Impact on Growth Estimates, with Simon Johnson , William Larson and Arvind Subramanian

Journal of Monetary Economics, March 2013. Download PDF file. Online Supplementary Material PDF file. NBER Working Paper no 15455.VoxEU.


This paper sheds light on two problems in the Penn World Table (PWT) GDP estimates. First, we show that these estimates vary substantially across different versions of the PWT despite being derived from very similar underlying data and using almost identical methodologies; that this variability is systematic; and that it is intrinsic to the methodology deployed by the PWT to estimate growth rates. Moreover, this variability matters for the cross-country growth literature. While growth studies that use low frequency data remain robust to data revisions, studies that use annual data are less robust. Second, the PWT methodology leads to GDP estimates that are not valued at purchasing power parity (PPP) prices. This is surprising because the raison d’être of the PWT is to adjust national estimates of GDP by valuing output at common international (purchasing power parity [PPP]) prices so that the resulting PPP-adjusted estimates of GDP are comparable across countries. We propose an approach to address these two problems of variability and valuation.


Investing in Public Investment: An Index of Public Investment Management Efficiency, with Era Dabla-Norris, Jim Brumby, Annette Kyobe and Zac Mills

Journal of Economic Growth, September 2012. Download PDF file | Data | VoxEU.


Pritchett (Journal of Economic Growth 2000; 5:361-384) convincingly argued that the difference between investment cost and capital value is of first-order empirical importance especially for developing countries whose public investment is the primary source of investment. This paper constructs a public investment efficiency index that captures the institutional environment underpinning public investment management across four different stages: project appraisal, selection, implementation, and evaluation. Covering 71 countries, including 40 low-income countries, the index allows for benchmarking across regions and country groups and for nuanced policy-relevant analysis and identification of specific areas where reform efforts could be prioritized. Research applications are outlined.

Growth Empirics without Parameters, with Daniel Henderson and Christopher Parmeter
Economic Journal, March 2012. Download PDF file | Data. Longer working paper version. Download PDF file.


Recent research on growth empirics has focused on resolving model and variable uncertainty. The conventional approach has been to assume a linear growth process and then to proceed with investigating the relevant variables that determine cross-country growth. This paper questions the linearity assumption underlying the vast majority of such research and uses recently developed nonparametric techniques to handle nonlinearities as well as select relevant variables. We show that inclusion of nonlinearities is necessary for determining the empirically relevant variables and uncovering key mechanisms of the growth process. We also show how nonparametric methods can sometimes point towards the correct parametric specification. Each of these points is demonstrated by considering specific growth theories.

Trade Creation and Diversion Revisited: Accounting for Model Uncertainty and Natural Trading Partner Effects, with Theo Eicher and Christian Henn
Journal of Applied Econometrics, March 2012. Download PDF file.


The effect of Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) on trade flows is subject to model uncertainty stemming from the diverse and even contradictory effects suggested by the theoretical PTA literature. The existing empirical literature has produced remarkably disparate results and the wide variety of empirical approaches reflects the uncertainty about the incorrect set of explanatory variables that ought to be included in the analysis. To account for the model uncertainty that surrounds the validity of the competing PTA theories, we introduce Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) to the PTA literature. Statistical theory shows that BMA successfully incorporates model uncertainty in linear regression analysis by minimizing the mean squared error, and by generating predictive distributions with optimal predictive performance. Once model uncertainty is addressed as part of the empirical strategy, we find strong evidence of trade creation, trade diversion, and open bloc effects. Our results are robust to a range of alternative empirical specifications proposed by the recent PTA literature.

A Unified Theory of Structural Change, with Maria Dolores Guillo and Fidel Perez-Sebastian

Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, September 2011. Download PDF file.


This paper uses dynamic general equilibrium and computational methods, inspired by the multi-sector growth model structure in Stephen Turnovsky's previous and more recent work, to develop a theory that unifies two of the traditional explanations of structural change: sector-biased technical change and non-homothetic preferences. More specifically, we build a multisector overlapping-generations growth model with endogenous technical-change and non-homothetic preferences based on an expanding-variety setup with two different R&D technologies; one for agriculture, and another for non-agriculture. Results give additional support to the biased technical-change hypothesis as an important determinant of the structural transformation. The paper also explores where this bias might come from. Our findings suggest that production-side specific factors, such as asymmetries in cross-sector knowledge spillovers could be behind it, and therefore be important to fully explain the process of structural change.

Default Priors and Predictive Performance in Bayesian Model Averaging, with Application to Growth Determinants, with Theo Eicher and Adrian Raftery
Journal of Applied Econometrics, January 2011. Download PDF file.


Bayesian model averaging (BMA) has become widely accepted as a way of accounting for model uncertainty, notably in regression models for identifying the determinants of economic growth. To implement BMA the user must specify a prior distribution in two parts: a prior for the regression parameters and a prior over the model space. Here we address the issue of which default prior to use for BMA in linear regression. We compare 12 candidate parameter priors: the Unit Information Prior (UIP) corresponding to the BIC or Schwarz approximation to the integrated likelihood, a proper data-dependent prior, and 10 priors considered by Fernandez et al. (2001b). We also compare the uniform model prior to others that favor smaller models. We compare them on the basis of cross validated predictive performance on a well-known growth dataset and on two simulated examples from the literature. We found that the UIP with uniform model prior generally outperformed the other priors considered. It also identified the largest set of growth determinants.

Diseases, Infection Dynamics, and Development, with Shankha Chakraborty and Fidel Perez-Sebastian
Journal of Monetary Economics, October 2010. Download PDF file. Online Supplementary Material. Download PDF file.


The relationship between health and development at the aggregate level is a subject of ongoing debate. This paper contributes to the debate by proposing a general equilibrium theory of infectious disease transmission and rational behavior. Diseases cause premature death, labor productivity loss and lower quality of life. Higher disease prevalence lowers the average saving-investment propensity. This can be counteracted through prevention but only when disease prevalence and externality are relatively low. The model, calibrated to malaria and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, offers two insights. First, infectious disease can plausibly generate a growth trap where income alone cannot push an economy out of underdevelopment unlike conventional traps in the literature. Second, even when countries converge to the same balanced growth path, the disease ecology significantly impairs the pace of economic development.

Rough and Lonely Road to Prosperity: A reexamination of the sources of growth in Africa using Bayesian Model Averaging, with Winford Masanjala
Journal of Applied Econometrics, August 2008. Download PDF file. Earlier longer version. Download PDF file.


This paper takes a fresh look into Africa's growth experience by using the Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) methodology. BMA enables us to consider a large number of potential explanatory variables and sort out which of these variable can effectively explain Africa's growth experience. Posterior coefficient estimates reveal that key engines of growth in Africa are substantially different from those in the rest of the world. More precisely, it is shown that mining, primary exports and initial primary education exerted differential effect on African growth. These results are examined in relation to the existing literature.


·   How to use interaction terms in BMA: Reply to Crespo’s comment on Masanjala and Papageorgiou (2008)
Journal of Applied Econometrics,October 2011. Download PDF file.


Jesus Crespo Cuaresma (forthcoming) shows that the results in Masanjala and Papageorgiou (Rough and lonely road to prosperity: a reexamination of the sources of growth in Africa using Bayesian model averaging, Journal of Applied Econometrics 2008; 23(5): 671-682) are sensitive to an alternative prior model structure in considering interaction terms. As a side-issue, the algorithm for averaging over models is also challenged. In this reply I show that the prior used in Masanjala and Papageorgiou is as sensible as the prior suggested by Crespo. What we learn from Crespo’s comment and this reply is that further effort should be dedicated to the study of parameter heterogeneity in the framework of BMA methods.

Two-Level CES Production Technology in the Solow and Diamond Growth Models, with Marianne Saam
Scandinavian Journal of Economics, March 2008. Download PDF file.


The two-level CES aggregate production function - that nests a CES into another CES function - has recently been used extensively in theoretical and empirical applications of macroeconomics. We examine the theoretical properties of this production technology and establish existence and stability conditions of steady states under the Solow and Diamond growth models. It is shown that in the Solow model the sufficient condition for a steady state is fulfilled for a wide range of substitution parameter values. This is in sharp contrast with the two-factor Solow model, where only an elasticity of substitution equal to one is sufficient to guarantee the existence of a steady state. In the Diamond model, multiple equilibria can occur when the aggregate elasticity of substitution is lower than the capital share. Moreover, it is shown that for high initial levels of capital and factor substitutability, the effect of a further increase in a substitution parameter on the steady state depends on capital-skill complementarity.

Endogenous Aggregate Elasticity of Substitution, with Kaz Miyagiwa
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, September 2007. Download PDF file.


In the literature studying aggregate economies the aggregate elasticity of substitution (AES) between capital and labor is often treated as a constant or "deep" parameter. This view contrasts with the conjecture put forward by Arrow et al. (1961) that AES evolves over time and changes with the process of economic development. This paper evaluates this conjecture in a simple dynamic multi-sector growth model, in which AES is endogenously determined. Our findings support the conjecture, and in particular demonstrate that AES tends to be positively related to the state of economic development, a result consistent with recent empirical findings.

International Medical Technology Diffusion, with Andreas Savvides and Marios Zachariadis
Journal of International Economics, July 2007. Download PDF file.


Does medical technology originating in countries close to the technology frontier have a significant impact on health outcomes in countries distant from this frontier? This paper considers a framework where lagging countries may benefit from medical technology (a result of research and development by countries close to the frontier) that is embodied in medical imports or diffuses in the form of ideas. Using a novel dataset from a cross-section of 73 technology-importing countries, we show that medical technology diffusion is an important contributor to improved health status, as measured by life expectancy and mortality rates.

Is the Asymptotic Speed of Convergence a Good Proxy for the Transitional Growth Path?, with Fidel Perez-Sebastian
Journal of Money Credit and Banking, February 2007. Download PDF file.


This paper compares transitional dynamics in two alternative R&D non-scale growth models, one with endogenous human capital and the other without. We show that focusing on the asymptotic speed of convergence to discriminate between the two models' performance can be misleading. Our analysis suggests that a careful study of the entire adjustment paths predicted by alternative growth models starting far away from the balanced growth path is required in order to successfully discriminate among them.

Dynamics in a Non-Scale R&D Growth Model with Human Capital: Explaining the Japanese and South Korean Development Experiences, with Fidel Perez-Sebastian
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, June 2006. Download PDF file.


This paper constructs an R&D non-scale growth model that includes endogenous human capital. The goal is to take the model's implications to the data once the complementarity between technology and human capital, commonly found in the empirical literature, is taken into account. Our model suggests that cross-sector labor movements induced by the complementarity between human capital and technology can be a key factor in replicating and explaining development experiences such as those of Japan and South Korea. In particular it is shown that the the adjustment paths of output growth, investment rates, interest rates, and labor shares implied by the proposed model are consistent with empirical evidence.

Nonlinearities in Capital-Skill Complementarity, with Viera Chmelarova
Journal of Economic Growth, March 2005. Download PDF file.


This paper uses a novel dataset to test the capital-skill complementarity hypothesis in a cross-section of countries. It is shown that for the full sample there exists evidence in favor of the hypothesis. When we arbitrarily split the full sample into OECD and non-OECD countries, we find no evidence in favor of the hypothesis for the OECD subsample, but strong evidence for the non-OECD subsample. When we use Hansen's (2000) endogenous threshold methodology we find that initial literacy rates and initial per capita output are threshold variables that can cluster countries into three distinct regimes that obey different statistical models. In particular, the regime with moderate initial per capita income but low initial education exhibits substantially higher capital-skill complementarity than the regime with low income and low education and the regime with high education. This cross-country nonlinearity in capital-skill complementarity is consistent with the time-series nonlinearity found by Goldin and Katz (1998) using U.S. manufacturing data, and promotes the view that the phenomenon maybe a transitory one.

Can Transition Dynamics Explain the International Output Data?, with Fidel Perez-Sebastian
Macroeconomic Dynamics, September 2004. Download PDF file | Data.


This paper studies the transition dynamics predictions of an R&D-based growth model, and evaluates their performance in explaining income disparities across nations. We find that the fraction of the observed cross-country income variation explained by the transitional dynamics of the model is as large as the one accounted by existing steady-state level regressions. Our results suggest that the traditional view of a world in which nations move along their distinct balanced-growth paths is as likely as the one in which countries move along adjustment paths toward a common (very long-run) steady state.

The Solow Model with CES Technology: Nonlinearities and Parameter Heterogeneity, with Winford Masanjala,
Journal of Applied Econometrics, March 2004. Download PDF file | Data.


This paper examines whether nonlinearities in the aggregate production function can explain parameter heterogeneity in the Solow (1956) growth regressions. Nonlinearities in the production technology are introduced by replacing the commonly used Cobb-Douglas (CD) aggregated production specification with the more general Constant-Elasticity-of-Substitution (CES) specification. We first justify our choice of production function by showing that cross-country level regressions favor the CES over the CD technology. Then, by using the endogenous threshold methodology of Hansen (2000) we show that the Solow model with CES technology is consistent with the existence of multiple regimes.

Capital-Skill Complementarity? Evidence from a Panel of Countries, with John Duffy and Fidel Perez-Sebastian
Review of Economics and Statistics, February 2004. Download PDF file | Data.


Since Griliches (1969), researchers have been intrigued by the idea that physical capital and skilled labor are relatively more complementary than physical capital and unskilled labor. In this paper we consider the cross-country evidence for capital-skill complementarity using a time-series, cross-section panel of 73 developed and less developed countries over a 25 year period. We focus on three empirical issues. First, what is the best specification of the aggregate production technology to address the capital-skill complementarity hypothesis. Second, how should we measure skilled labor? Finally, is there any cross-country evidence in support of the capital-skill complementarity hypothesis? Our main finding is that we find some support for the capital-skill complementarity hypothesis in our macro panel dataset.

Elasticity of Substitution and Growth: Normalized CES in the Diamond Model, with Kaz Miyagiwa
Economic Theory, March 2003. Download PDF file.


It is often asserted that the more substitutable capital and labor are in the aggregate production the more rapidly an economy grows. Recently this has been formally confirmed within the Solow model by Klump and de La Gradville (2000). This paper demonstrates that there exists no such monotonic relationship between factor substitutability and growth in the Diamond overlapping-generations model. In particular, we prove that, if capital and labor are relatively substitutable, a country with a greater elasticity of substitution exhibits lower per capital output and growth in transit and in steady state.

A Cross-Country Empirical Investigation of the Aggregate Production Function Specification, with John Duffy
Journal of Economic Growth, March 2000. Download PDF file | Data.


Many models of exogenous and endogenous growth assume that aggregate output is generated by a Cobb-Douglas specification for the aggregate production function with labor, physical capital, and sometimes human capital as inputs. In this paper we question the empirical relevance of the Cobb-Douglas specification. We consider new World Bank data on GDP, the labor supply, the stock of physical capital and educational attainment per worker for a panel of 82 countries over a 28 year period from 1960-87. These data are used to estimate a general CES production function specification for which the Cobb-Douglas specification is a special case. We find that for the entire 82 country-28 year panel we can reject a Cobb-Douglas specification for the aggregate production function. When we divide our sample of 82 countries up into several subsamples based on initial per capita income levels we find that we can continue to reject a Cobb-Douglas specification. In particular, we find that physical capital and human capital adjusted labor are more substitutable in the richest group of countries and less substitutable in the poorest group of countries than would be implied by a Cobb-Douglas specification. We discuss the implications of our findings for the debate concerning convergence in income levels across countries as well as for the plausibility of long-run endogenous growth due to the specification of the production technology.




Unraveling the Fortunes of the Fortunate: An Iterative Bayesian Model Averaging (IBMA) Approach, with Theo Eicher and Oliver Roehn
Journal of Macroeconomics, September 2007. Download PDF file.


We investigate country heterogeneity in cross-country growth regressions. In contrast to the previous literature that focuses on low-income countries, this study also highlights growth determinants in high-income (OECD) countries. We introduce Iterative Bayesian Model Averaging (IBMA) to address not only potential parameter heterogeneity, but also the model uncertainty inherent in growth regressions. IBMA is essential to our estimation because the simultaneous consideration of model uncertainty and parameter heterogeneity in standard growth regressions increases the number of candidate regressors beyond the processing capacity of ordinary BMA algorithms. Our analysis generates three results that strongly support different dimensions of parameter heterogeneity. First, while a large number of regressors can be identified as growth determinants in Non-OECD countries, the same regressors are irrelevant for OECD countries. Second, Non-OECD countries and the global sample feature only a handful of common growth determinants. Third, and most devastatingly, the long list of variables included in popular cross-country datasets does not contain regressors that begin to satisfactorily characterize the basic growth determinants in OECD countries.

Economic Development and Property Rights: The Statute of Limitations for Land Ownership, with Geoffrey Turnbull
Economic Development Quarterly, September 2005. Download PDF file.


This paper discusses the relationship between economic development and one aspect of property rights, a statute of limitations defining time limits on ownership claims. The analysis centers on property rights in land. This paper argues that the available development opportunities shape the time limits on ownership claims that maximize property values, which in turn creates an inherent underlying tension among the owners of different types of property in the economy. An implication for positive analysis is that economic growth and successful development create demands for changing this dimension of property rights. Other characteristics of the economy like the efficiency of the legal system, the quality of the public sector bureaucracy, and corruption, also affect the value-maximizing time limitations for different types of property. This paper discusses implications of these relationships for developing countries and for property redevelopment in declining central cities in the US.

Matching Up the Data on Education with Economic Growth Models, with Fidel Perez-Sebastian
B.E. Journals in Macroeconomics-Topics in Macroeconomics, April 2005. Download PDF file.


The growth literature has not yet established how data on education should be introduced in theories involving human capital. Early work used enrolment rates as a proxy of human capital whereas more recently it has utilized measures of average education al attainment taking advantage of new data sets. This paper examines alternative specifications of human capital that may match up with the existing data on education. First, we present a standard neoclassical two-sector growth model that adopts a human capital specification proposed in recent papers. In this model the fraction of individual's time endowment in school is viewed as an investment rate. We show that the optimally chosen educational attainment predicted by the calibrated model is very high and does not correspond to the data. Next, we consider two extensions of the basic model: (a) allow for different elasticities of substitution between skilled and unskilled labor, (b) introduce work experience. We find that neither of the two extensions are able to generate plausible predictions. Finally, we propose an alternative specification of human capital based on a law of motion of educational attainment that successfully matches up with the data.

An Experimental Study of Employer Choices of Worker Types, with Nick Feltovich
Southern Economic Journal, April 2004. Download PDF file.


This paper reports findings of an experiment motivated by a dynamic labor market model that considers the problem faced by an employer in making hiring decisions of workers of different types. The question examined here is how quickly do employers learn about workers ability through observing the their performance in the workplace. If prior opinions are weak, the employer will quickly update any group-based stereotypes with information from the workplace. Our experimental findings are twofold: first subjects (employers) learn fast and second priors are hard to establish.

Distinguishing Between the Effects of Primary and Post-Primary Education on Economic Growth
Review of Development Economics, November 2003. Download PDF file.


This paper follows Benhabib and Spiegel (1994) in examining the effect of human capital accumulation on economic growth. The paper is innovative in two ways. First, it takes the R&D-based models more seriously. This delivers more structural specifications in which human capital affects growth as an input of final output and as a catalyst of technological innovation and imitation. Second, due to data availability it is possible to disaggregate human capital and assign different roles to primary and post-primary education. Regression estimates obtained from these alternative specifications suggest that the relative contribution of human capital to technology adoption and final output production vary by country wealth. More importantly, regression estimates suggest that primary education contributes mainly to production of final output, whereas post-primary education contributes mainly to adoption and innovation of technology.

Imitation in a Non-Scale R&D Growth Model
Economics Letters, September 2003. [Lead article] Download PDF file.


Motivated by recent empirical evidence this paper extends a non-scale R&D growth model to allow for technological imitation in addition to innovation. It is shown that a simple modification of the standard R&D equation results in a more general model that can explain not only the growth process of developed countries that mostly innovate, but also the growth process of developing countries that mostly imitate.

Technology Adoption, Human Capital and Growth Theory
Review of Development Economics, October 2002. Download PDF file.


This paper explores a model in which growth is determined by a combination of human capital and technology adoption. At the heart of the model is the notion of "contiguous knowledge" - the idea that knowledge spreads out a certain distance. Because of this property of knowledge, a developing country can adopt existing technology only when it is sufficiently close to the technological frontier. The nature of the model is optimistic in that technology gaps present an opportunity for developing countries that are relatively close to the frontier to achieve rapid growth through technology adoption. Unlike the neoclassical growth model however, the predictions of the model are rather pessimistic for countries that are far away from the frontier making them unable to take advantage of imitation. As a result, the model is able to account both for rapid growth episodes as well as economic stagnation.

Trade as a Threshold Variable for Multiple Regimes
Economics Letters, September 2002. Download PDF file | Data.


This paper employs the data-sorting method developed by Hansen (2000) which allows the data to endogenously select regimes using different variables. It is shown that openness, as measured by the trade share to GDP, is a threshold variable that can cluster middle-income countries into two distinct regimes that obey different statistical models. Our result suggests that openness may not be as crucial in the growth process of low and high-income countries but it is instrumental in identifying middle-income countries into high and low-growth groups.


·   Trade as a Threshold Variable for Multiple Regimes: Reply
Economics Letters, June 2006. Download PDF file.


Huang and Chang's comment pointing to an error in Papageorgiou [Papageorgiou, C., 2002. Trade as a Threshold Variable for Multiple Regimes, Economics Letters 77, 85-91] is gratefully acknowledged but more recent work (using a new methodological advancement in threshold estimation) is suggestive of the result claimed in the earlier paper.




The U.S. Manufacturing Recovery: Uptick or Renaissance? with Oya Celasun, Gabriel Di Bella and Tim Mahedy in Energy Boom and Manufacturing in North America, 2015. Download PDF file | VoxEU.


The notable rebound of U.S. manufacturing activity following the Great Recession has raised the question of whether the sector might be experiencing a renaissance. Using  panel regressions, we find that a depreciating real exchange rate, an increasing spread in natural gas prices between the United States and other G-7 countries, and in particular decreasing unit labor costs have had a positive impact on U.S. manufacturing production. While we find it unlikely for manufacturing to become a main engine of growth in the United States, we find that U.S. manufacturing exports could provide nonnegligible growth opportunities going forward.

Diversification, Growth, and Volatility with Nikola Spatafora and Ke Wang in Frontier and Developing Asia: The Next Generation of Emerging Markets, IMF, Washington, DC. June 2015. Download PDF file.


The chapter focuses on two key questions. First, is diversification crucial to sustaining growth and reducing volatility? Put differently, does concentration in sectors with limited scope for productivity growth and quality upgrading, such as primary commodities, result in less broad-based and sustainable growth? And does lack of diversification increase exposure to adverse external shocks and macroeconomic instability? Second, what precisely does diversification, in both external trade and the broader domestic economy, involve? How is it linked to broader structural transformation, including the process of quality upgrading? And which countries and regions have been more successful in promoting diversification?

Education Inequality among Women and Infant Mortality: A cross-country empirical investigation, with Petia Stoytcheva in Progress in Economic Research, Nova Science Publishers, New York, NY. January 2012. Download PDF file.


We construct a cross-country dataset on female human capital inequality. Unlike the existing literature that primarily focuses on the average years of women's education, we use this dataset to examine the relationship between female human capital inequality and infant mortality. We show that higher education inequality among women, measured by the Gini coefficient, leads to substantially higher infant mortality. This finding is robust to various alternative specifications and subsamples considered. We also consider whether this channel is important in explaining growth. Growth regressions show favorable but weak evidence that education inequality among women is associated with growth via its effect on infant mortality. Our main results have implications related to the policy question on the optimal allocation of educational subsidies. Most importantly, if infant mortality reduction is a priority for policy makers, then educating the least educated women first seems to be an effective (and also simple) policy recommendation.

Tanzania: Growth Acceleration and Increased Public Spending with Macroeconomic Stability, with David Robinson and Matthew Gaertner in Yes Africa Can: Success Stories from a Dynamic Continent, World Bank, Washington DC. July 2011. Download PDF file.


Tanzania has seen unprecedented sustained growth acceleration since 1996. Several major (real and financial) reforms played a pivotal role in the take-off. Maintaining macroeconomic stability was a critical component in sustaining growth. Navigating the post–1996 period has involved the development of new policy instruments, as the nature of the economy changed and legacy constraints were eased. Is another 15 years of uninterrupted growth likely? Untapped growth potential clearly remains, and the policy space that has been developed over the past decade or so can provide needed support.

Globalization and Inequality, with Florence Jaumotte, Subir Lall and Petia Topalova, in World Economic Outlook, Washington DC. October 2007. Download PDF file.


This chapter examines the relationship between the rapid pace of trade and financial globalization and the rise in income inequality observed in most countries over the past two decades. The analysis finds that technological progress has had a greater impact than globalization on inequality within countries. The limited overall impact of globalization reflects two offsetting tendencies: whereas trade globalization is associated with a reduction in inequality, financial globalization and foreign direct investment in particular is associated with an increase in inequality. It should be emphasized that these findings are subject to a number of caveats related to data limitations, and it is particularly difficult to disentangle the effects of technology and financial globalization since they both work through processes that raise the demand for skilled workers. The chapter concludes that policies aimed at reducing barriers to trade and broadening access to education and credit can allow the benefits of globalization to be shared more equally.

Variable Elasticity of Substitution and Economic Growth: Theory and Evidence, with Theodore Palivos and Giannis Karagiannis in New Trends in Macroeconomics, C. Diebolt and C. Kyrtsou, Eds., Springer Verlag, New York, February 2005. Download PDF file.


We construct a one-sector growth model where the technology is described by a Variable Elasticity of Substitution (VES) production function. This framework allows the elasticity of factor substitution to interact with the level of economic development. First, we show that the model can exhibit unbounded endogenous growth despite the absence of exogenous technical change and the presence of non-reproducible factors. Second, we provide some empirical estimates of the elasticity of substitution, using a panel of 82 countries over a 28-year period, which admit the possibilities of a VES aggregate production function with an elasticity of substitution that is greater than one and consequently of unbounded endogenous growth.

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