Jesus Felipe

  • Working Paper No. 1006 | April 2022
    This paper argues that the 40-year-old Feldstein-Horioka “puzzle” (i.e., that in a regression of the domestic investment rate on the domestic saving rate, the estimated coefficient is significantly larger than what would be expected in a world characterized by high capital mobility) should have never been labeled as such. First, we show that the investment and saving series typically used in empirical exercises to test the Feldstein-Horioka thesis are not appropriate for testing capital mobility. Second, and complementary to the first point, we show that the Feldstein-Horioka regression is not a model in the econometric sense, i.e., an equation with a proper error term (a random variable). The reason is that by adding the capital account to their regression, one gets the accounting identity that relates the capital account, domestic investment, and domestic saving. This implies that the estimate of the coefficient of the saving rate in the Feldstein-Horioka regression can be thought of as a biased estimate of the same coefficient in the accounting identity, where it has a value of one. Since the omitted variable is known, we call it “pseudo bias.” Given that this (pseudo) bias is known to be negative and less than one in absolute terms, it should come as no surprise that the Feldstein-Horioka regression yields a coefficient between zero and one.
    Associated Program:
    Jesus Felipe Scott Fullwiler Al-Habbyel Yusoph
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  • Working Paper No. 994 | October 2021
    Biased Coefficients and Endogenous Regressors, or a Case of Collective Amnesia?
    The possible endogeneity of labor and capital in production functions, and the consequent bias of the estimated elasticities, has been discussed and addressed in the literature in different ways since the 1940s. This paper revisits an argument first outlined in the 1950s, which questioned production function estimations. This argument is that output, capital, and employment are linked through a distribution accounting identity, a key point that the recent literature has overlooked. This identity can be rewritten as a form that resembles a production function (Cobb-Douglas, CES, translog). We show that this happens because the data used in empirical exercises are value (monetary) data, not physical quantities. The argument has clear predictions about the size of the factor elasticities and about what is commonly interpreted as the bias of the estimated elasticities. To test these predictions, we estimate a typical Cobb-Douglas function using five estimators and show that: (i) the identity is responsible for the fact that the elasticities must be the factor shares; (ii) the bias of the estimated elasticities (i.e., departure from the factor shares) is, in reality, caused by the omission of a term in the identity. However, unlike in the standard omitted-variable bias problem, here the omitted term is known; and (iii) the estimation method is a second-order issue. Estimation methods that theoretically deal with endogeneity, including the most recent ones, cannot solve this problem. We conclude that the use of monetary values rather than physical data poses an insoluble problem for the estimation of production functions. This is, consequently, far more serious than any supposed endogeneity problems.

  • Working Paper No. 946 | February 2020
    A Comment on Autor and Salomons
    We show that Autor and Salomons’ (2017, 2018) analysis of the impact of technical progress on employment growth is problematic. When they use labor productivity growth as a proxy for technical progress, their regressions are quasi-accounting identities that omit one variable of the identity. Consequently, the coefficient of labor productivity growth suffers from omitted-variable bias, where the omitted variable is known. The use of total factor productivity (TFP) growth as a proxy for technical progress does not solve the problem. Contrary to what the profession has argued for decades, we show that this variable is not a measure of technical progress. This is because TFP growth derived residually from a production function, together with the conditions for producer equilibrium, can also be derived from an accounting identity without any assumption. We interpret TFP growth as a measure of distributional changes. This identity also indicates that Autor and Salomons’ estimates of TFP growth’s impact on employment growth are biased due to the omission of the other variables in the identity. Overall, we conclude that their work does not shed light on the question they address.

  • Working Paper No. 725 | May 2012
    A Caveat Emptor for Regional Scientists

    Over the last 20 years or so, mainstream economists have become more interested in spatial economics and have introduced largely neoclassical economic concepts and tools to explain phenomena that were previously the preserve of economic geographers. One of these concepts is the aggregate production function, which is also central to much of regional growth theory. However, as Franklin Fisher, inter alios, has shown, the conditions necessary to aggregate microproduction functions into an aggregate production function are so stringent that in all probability the aggregate production function does not exist. This paper shows that the good statistical fits commonly found empirically are solely due to the use of value data and an underlying accounting identity. The result is that the estimates obtained cannot be regarded as providing evidence of the underlying technological structure of the spatial economy, including the aggregate elasticity of substitution, the degree of returns to scale, and the rate of technical progress.

  • Working Paper No. 718 | May 2012
    Further Reflections on Temple’s Criticisms and Misunderstandings

    In a reply to Felipe and McCombie (2010a), Temple (2010) has largely ignored the main arguments that underlie the accounting identity critique of the estimation of production functions using value data. This criticism suggests that estimates of the parameters of aggregate production functions cannot be regarded as reflecting the underlying technology of the industry. While Temple concedes some points, he erroneously believes that the critique holds only under some ad hoc assumptions. As a consequence, he argues that the critique works only “part-time.” This rejoinder discusses Temple’s arguments and demonstrates that the critique works full-time.

  • Working Paper No. 715 | April 2012
    What Is It, Who Is in It, and Why?

    This paper provides a working definition of what the middle-income trap is. We start by defining four income groups of GDP per capita in 1990 PPP dollars: low-income below $2,000; lower-middle-income between $2,000 and $7,250; upper-middle-income between $7,250 and $11,750; and high-income above $11,750. We then classify 124 countries for which we have consistent data for 1950–2010. In 2010, there were 40 low-income countries in the world, 38 lower-middle-income, 14 upper-middle-income, and 32 high-income countries. Then we calculate the threshold number of years for a country to be in the middle-income trap: a country that becomes lower-middle-income (i.e., that reaches $2,000 per capita income) has to attain an average growth rate of per capita income of at least 4.7 percent per annum to avoid falling into the lower-middle-income trap (i.e., to reach $7,250, the upper-middle-income threshold); and a country that becomes upper-middle-income (i.e., that reaches $7,250 per capita income) has to attain an average growth rate of per capita income of at least 3.5 percent per annum to avoid falling into the upper-middle-income trap (i.e., to reach $11,750, the high-income level threshold). Avoiding the middle-income trap is, therefore, a question of how to grow fast enough so as to cross the lower-middle-income segment in at most 28 years, and the upper-middle-income segment in at most 14 years. Finally, the paper proposes and analyzes one possible reason why some countries get stuck in the middle-income trap: the role played by the changing structure of the economy (from low-productivity activities into high-productivity activities), the types of products exported (not all products have the same consequences for growth and development), and the diversification of the economy. We compare the exports of countries in the middle-income trap with those of countries that graduated from it, across eight dimensions that capture different aspects of a country’s capabilities to undergo structural transformation, and test whether they are different. Results indicate that, in general, they are different. We also compare Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines according to the number of products that each exports with revealed comparative advantage. We find that while Korea was able to gain comparative advantage in a significant number of sophisticated products and was well connected, Malaysia and the Philippines were able to gain comparative advantage in electronics only.

  • Working Paper No. 670 | May 2011
    What Does It Say About the Opportunities for Growth and Structural Transformation of Sub-Saharan Africa?

    In this paper we look at the economic development of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the context of structural transformation. We use Hidalgo et al.’s (2007) concept of product space to show the evolution of the region’s productive structure, and discuss the opportunities for growth and diversification. The majority of SSA countries are trapped in the export of unsophisticated, highly standard products that are poorly connected in the product space; this makes the process of structural transformation of the region particularly difficult. The products that are nearby to those they already export have the same characteristics. Therefore, shifting to these products will do little to improve SSA’s growth prospects. To jump-start and sustain growth, governments must implement policies and provide public inputs that will encourage the private sector to invest in new and more sophisticated activities.

  • Working Paper No. 651 | February 2011
    The Competitiveness Debate Again

    Current discussions about the need to reduce unit labor costs (especially through a significant reduction in nominal wages) in some countries of the eurozone (in particular, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) to exit the crisis may not be a panacea. First, historically, there is no relationship between the growth of unit labor costs and the growth of output. This is a well-established empirical result, known in the literature as Kaldor’s paradox. Second, construction of unit labor costs using aggregate data (standard practice) is potentially misleading. Unit labor costs calculated with aggregate data are not just a weighted average of the firms’ unit labor costs. Third, aggregate unit labor costs reflect the distribution of income between wages and profits. This has implications for aggregate demand that have been neglected. Of the 12 countries studied, the labor share increased in one (Greece), declined in nine, and remained constant in two. We speculate that this is the result of the nontradable sectors gaining share in the overall economy. Also, we construct a measure of competitiveness called unit capital costs as the ratio of the nominal profit rate to capital productivity. This has increased in all 12 countries. We conclude that a large reduction in nominal wages will not solve the problem that some countries of the eurozone face. If this is done, firms should also acknowledge that unit capital costs have increased significantly and thus also share the adjustment cost. Barring solutions such as an exit from the euro, the solution is to allow fiscal policy to play a larger role in the eurozone, and to make efforts to upgrade the export basket to improve competitiveness with more advanced countries. This is a long-term solution that will not be painless, but one that does not require a reduction in nominal wages.

  • Working Paper No. 644 | December 2010
    It’s the Economic Structure . . . Duh!

    Becoming a rich country requires the ability to produce and export commodities that embody certain characteristics. We classify 779 exported commodities according to two dimensions: (1) sophistication (measured by the income content of the products exported); and (2) connectivity to other products (a well-connected export basket is one that allows an easy jump to other potential exports). We identify 352 “good” products and 427 “bad” products. Based on this, we categorize 154 countries into four groups according to these two characteristics. There are 34 countries whose export basket contains a significant share of good products. We find 28 countries in a “middle product” trap. These are countries whose export baskets contain a significant share of products that are in the middle of the sophistication and connectivity spectra. We also find 17 countries that are in a “middle-low” product trap, and 75 countries that are in a difficult and precarious “low product” trap. These are countries whose export baskets contain a significant share of unsophisticated products that are poorly connected to other products. To escape this situation, these countries need to implement policies that would help them accumulate the capabilities needed to manufacture and export more sophisticated and better connected products.

    Associated Program:
    Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar Arnelyn Abdon
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  • Working Paper No. 643 | December 2010
    Some Caveats

    Since the early 1990s, the number of papers estimating econometric models and using other quantitative techniques to try to understand different aspects of the Chinese economy has mushroomed. A common feature of some of these studies is the use of neoclassical theory as the underpinning for the empirical implementations. It is often assumed that factor markets are competitive, that firms are profit maximizers, and that these firms respond to the same incentives that firms in market economies do. Many researchers find that the Chinese economy can be well explained using the tools of neoclassical theory. In this paper, we (1) review two examples of estimation of the rate of technical progress, and (2) discuss one attempt at modeling investment. We identify their shortcomings and the problems with the alleged policy implications derived. We show that econometric estimation of neoclassical models may result in apparently sensible results for misinformed reasons. We conclude that modeling the Chinese economy requires a deeper understanding of its inner workings as both a transitional and a developing economy.

    Associated Program:
    Jesus Felipe John McCombie
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  • Working Paper No. 638 | November 2010

    An extensive literature argues that India’s manufacturing sector has underperformed, and that the country has failed to industrialize; in particular, it has failed to take advantage of its labor-abundant comparative advantage. India’s manufacturing sector is smaller as a share of GDP than that of East Asian countries, even after controlling for GDP per capita. Hence, its contribution to overall GDP growth is modest. Without greater participation of the secondary sector, the argument goes, the country will not be able to develop and become a modern economy. Standard arguments blame the “license-permit raj,” the small-scale industrial policy, and the supposedly stringent laws. All these were part of the industrial policy regime instituted after independence, which favored the heavy-machinery subsector. We show that this policy bias negatively affected the development of India’s labor-intensive sector, as the country should export with comparative advantage a larger number of these products, given its income per capita. However, India’s manufacturing sector is relatively well diversified and sophisticated, given also the country’s income per capita. In particular, India’s inroads into machinery, metals, chemicals, and other capital- and skilled labor–intensive products has allowed the country to accumulate a large number of capabilities. This positions India well to expand its exports of other sophisticated products.

  • Working Paper No. 631 | October 2010

    This paper explores the degree of structural change of the Philippine economy using the input-output framework. It examines how linkages among economic sectors evolved over 1979–2000, and identifies which economic sectors exhibited the highest intersectoral linkages. We find that manufacturing is consistently the key sector in the Philippine economy. Specifically, resource-intensive and scale-intensive manufacturing industries exhibit the highest linkages. We also find a growing impact on the economy of private services and transportation, communication, and storage sectors, probably due to the globalization of these activities. Overall, however, the services sector exhibits lower intersectoral linkages than the manufacturing sector. We conclude that the Philippines cannot afford to leapfrog the industrialization stage and largely depend on a service-oriented economy when the potential for growth still lies primarily in manufacturing.

    Associated Program:
    Nedelyn Magtibay-Ramos Gemma Estrada Jesus Felipe
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  • Working Paper No. 629 | October 2010

    This paper examines the growth experience of the Central Asian economies after the breakup of the Soviet Union. In particular, it evaluates the impact of being landlocked and resource rich. The main conclusions are: (1) Over the period 1994–2006, the landlocked resource-scarce developing countries of Central Asia grew at a slower pace than other landlocked resource-scarce developing countries; on the other hand, resource-rich developing countries in Central Asia grew at the same pace as other resource-rich developing economies. (2) Having “good” neighbors pays off in the form of growth spillovers; this calls for greater regional cooperation and enhanced regional integration through regional transport infrastructure, improved trade facilitation, and enhanced and coordinated economic policies. And (3) countries with a higher share of manufacturing exports in GDP grow faster, and the more sophisticated a country’s export basket, the higher its future growth; Central Asian countries should, therefore, take a more aggressive stance in supporting export diversification and upgrading.

  • Working Paper No. 628 | October 2010
    A Gravity Model

    With a decrease in formal trade barriers, trade facilitation has come into prominence as a policy tool for promoting trade. In this paper, we use a gravity model to examine the relationship between bilateral trade flows and trade facilitation. We also estimate the gains in trade derived from improvements in trade facilitation for the Central Asian countries. Trade facilitation is measured through the World Bank’s Logistic Performance Index (LPI). Our results show that there are significant gains in trade as a result of improving trade facilitation in these countries. These gains in trade vary from 28 percent in the case of Azerbaijan to as much as 63 percent in the case of Tajikistan. Furthermore, intraregional trade increases by 100 percent. Among the different components of LPI, we find that the greatest increase in total trade comes from improvement in infrastructure, followed by logistics and efficiency of customs and other border agencies. Also, our results show that the increase in bilateral trade, due to an improvement in the exporting country’s LPI, in highly sophisticated, more differentiated, and high-technology products is greater than the increase in trade in less sophisticated, less differentiated, and low-technology products. This is particularly important for the Central Asian countries as they try to reduce their dependence on exports of natural resources and diversify their manufacturing base by shifting to more sophisticated goods. As they look for markets beyond their borders, trade facilitation will have an important role to play.

  • Working Paper No. 626 | October 2010

    We use the real wage–profit rate schedule to examine the direction of technical change in India’s organized manufacturing sector during 1980–2007. We find that technical change was Marx biased (i.e., declining capital productivity with increasing labor productivity) through the 1980s and 1990s; and Hicks neutral (increasing both capital and labor productivity) post-2000. The historical experience suggests that Hicks-neutral technical change may only be a passing phase before we see a return to the long-term trend of Marx-biased technical change. We also find that the real profit rate has increased from about 30 percent to a very high 45 percent, that the real wage rate increased marginally, and that the share of capital in value added doubled. Overall, technical change in India’s organized manufacturing sector during 1980–2007 favored capital.


  • Working Paper No. 624 | September 2010

    We reinterpret unit labor costs (ULC) as the product of the labor share in value added, times a price adjustment factor. This allows us to discuss the functional distribution of income. We use data from India’s organized manufacturing sector and show that while India’s ULC displays a clear upward trend since 1980 (with a decline since the early 2000s), this is exclusively the result of the increase in the price deflator used to calculate the ULC. The labor share of India’s organized manufacturing sector has been on a downward trend, from 60 percent in 1980 to 26 percent in 2007. This means that the sector’s capital share increased from 40 to 74 percent over the same period. We also find that real wages have increased minimally during the period analyzed—well below labor productivity—while the real profit rate and unit capital costs have increased substantially. We conclude that if India’s organized manufacturing sector has lost any competitiveness, it is the result of the increase in unit capital costs. Our analysis questions policy recommendations that advocate wage moderation, which result from simply looking at the evolution of the ULC, and that blame the loss of competitiveness on high or increasing wages.

  • Working Paper No. 619 | September 2010
    Recovery Prospects and the Future

    The global crisis of 2007–09 affected developing Asia largely through a decline in exports to the developed countries and a slowdown in remittances. This happened very quickly, and by 2009 there were already signs of recovery (except on the employment front). This recovery was led by China’s impressive performance, aided by a large stimulus package and easy credit. But China needs to make efforts toward rebalancing its economy. Although private consumption has increased at a fast pace during the last decades, investment has done so at an even faster pace, with the consequence that the share of consumption in total output is very low. The risk is that the country may fall into an underconsumption crisis.

    Looking at the medium and long term, developing Asia’s future is mixed. There is one group of countries with a highly diversified export basket. These countries have an excellent opportunity to thrive if the right policies are implemented. However, there is another group of countries that relies heavily on natural resources. These countries face a serious challenge, since they must diversify.

  • Working Paper No. 616 | September 2010
    We rank 5,107 products and 124 countries according to the Hidalgo and Hausmann (2009) measures of complexity. We find that: (1) the most complex products are in machinery, chemicals, and metals, while the least complex products are raw materials and commodities, wood, textiles, and agricultural products; (2) the most complex economies in the world are Japan, Germany, and Sweden, and the least complex, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria; (3) the major exporters of the more complex products are the high-income countries, while the major exporters of the less complex products are the low-income countries; and (4) export shares of the more complex products increase with income, while export shares of the less complex products decrease with income. Finally, we relate the measure of product complexity with the concept of Complex Products and Systems, and find a high degree of conformity between them.

  • Working Paper No. 613 | August 2010
    From Capabilities to Opportunities
    We develop an Index of Opportunities for 130 countries based on their capabilities to undergo structural transformation. The Index of Opportunities has four dimensions, all of them characteristic of a country’s export basket: (1) sophistication; (2) diversification; (3) standardness; and (4) possibilities for exporting with comparative advantage over other products. The rationale underlying the index is that, in the long run, a country’s income is determined by the variety and sophistication of the products it makes and exports, which reflect its accumulated capabilities. We find that countries like China, India, Poland, Thailand, Mexico, and Brazil have accumulated a significant number of capabilities that will allow them to do well in the long run. These countries have diversified and increased the level of sophistication of their export structures. At the other extreme, countries like Papua New Guinea, Malawi, Benin, Mauritania, and Haiti score very poorly in the Index of Opportunities because their export structures are neither diversified nor sophisticated, and they have accumulated very few and unsophisticated capabilities. These countries are in urgent need of implementing policies that lead to the accumulation of capabilities.

  • Working Paper No. 611 | August 2010
    The key factor underlying China’s fast development during the last 50 years is its ability to master and accumulate new and more complex capabilities, reflected in the increase in diversification and sophistication of its export basket. This accumulation was policy induced and not the result of the market, and began before 1979. Despite its many policy mistakes, if China had not proceeded this way, in all likelihood it would be a much poorer country today. During the last 50 years, China has acquired revealed comparative advantage in the export of both labor-intensive products (following its factor abundance) and sophisticated products, although the latter does not indicate that there was leapfrogging. Analysis of China’s current export opportunity set indicates that it is exceptionally well positioned (especially taking into account its income per capita) to continue learning and gaining revealed comparative advantage in the export of more sophisticated products. Given adequate policies, carefully thought-out and implemented reforms, and skillful management of constraints and risks, China has the potential to continue thriving. This does not mean, however, that high growth will continue indefinitely.

  • Working Paper No. 609 | August 2010
    We forecast average annual GDP growth for 147 countries for 2010–30. We use a cross-country regression model where the long-run fundamentals are determined by countries’ accumulated capabilities and the capacity to undergo structural transformation.
    Associated Program:
    Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar Arnelyn Abdon
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