The JDE is on fire

The November issue of the Journal of Development Economics is a blockbuster.  A quick look at the table of contents leads me to want to read the issue cover to cover.  There are too many good ones to list, but here are some titles and abstracts of the ones I found most intriguing.

1. “Institutions and the long-run impact of early development” by James B. Ang

We study the role of institutional development as a causal mechanism of history affecting current economic performance. Several indicators capturing different dimensions of early development in 1500 AD are used to remove the endogenous component of the variations in institutions. These indicators are adjusted with large-scale movements of people across international borders using the global migration matrix of Putterman and Weil (2010) to account for the fact that the ancestors of a population have facilitated the diffusion of knowledge when they migrate. The exogenous component of institutions due to historical development is found to be a significant determinant of current output. By demonstrating that the relationship between early development and current economic performance works through the channel of institutions and that better institutions can be traced back to historical factors, the results of this paper shed some light on how history has played a role in shaping long-run comparative development.

2. “The rise and fall of (Chinese) African apparel exports” by Lorenzo Rotunno, Pierre-Louis Vézina, Zheng Wang

During the final years of the Multifiber Agreement (2001–2005) the US imposed quotas on Chinese apparel while it gave African apparel duty- and quota-free access. We argue that the combination of these policies led to a rapid but ephemeral rise of African exports that can be explained in part by ethnic-Chinese firms using Africa as a quota-hopping export platform. We first provide a large body of anecdotal evidence on the ethnic-Chinese apparel wave in Africa. Second, we show that Chinese exports to Africa predict US imports from the same countries and in the same apparel categories but only where transhipment incentives are present, i.e. for products facing US quotas and in countries with preferential access to the US unconstrained by rules of origin. Our estimates indicate that direct transhipment may account for around 22% of Africa’s apparel exports during 2001–2008.

3. “Trade and thy neighbor’s war” by Mahvash Saeed Qureshi

This paper is the first to examine the spillover effects of regional conflicts, defined as internal or external armed conflicts in contiguous states, on international trade. Our empirical findings—based on different measures of regional conflict constructed using alternate definitions of contiguity and types of conflict for 145 countries over 1948–2006—reveal a significant negative effect of both intrastate and international conflicts on the bilateral trade of neighboring countries that may not be directly involved in any conflict. The impact increases with conflict duration, and is persistent—on average, it takes bilateral trade 3–5 years to recover after the end of a regional conflict.

4. “Exogenous volatility and the size of government in developing countries” by Markus Brückner & Mark Gradstein

This paper presents instrumental variables estimates of the effects of GDP per capita volatility on the size of government. We show that for a panel of 157 countries spanning more than half a century, rainfall volatility has a significant positive effect on GDP per capita volatility in countries with above median temperatures. In these countries rainfall volatility has also a significant positive reduced-form effect on the GDP share of government. There is no significant reduced-form effect in the sample of countries with below median temperatures where rainfall volatility has no significant effect on GDP per capita volatility. Using rainfall volatility as an instrumental variable in the sample of countries with above median temperatures yields that greater GDP per capita volatility leads to a significantly higher GDP share of government.

5. “International competition and industrial evolution: Evidence from the impact of Chinese competition on Mexican maquiladoras” by Hale Utar and Luis B. Torres Ruiz

Effects of the competition between two South locations (Mexico and China) in a Northern market (US) are analyzed. By employing a plant-level data set that covers the universe of Mexican export processing plants (maquiladoras) from 1990 to 2006 and relying on an instrumental variable strategy that exploits exogenous intensification of Chinese imports in the world in conjunction with the WTO accession of China, the empirical analysis reveals a substantial effect of intensified Chinese competition on maquiladoras. In particular, competition from China has a negative and significant impact on employment and plant growth, both through the intensive and the extensive margin. As the negative impact is stronger on the most unskilled labor intensive sectors, it triggers significant sectoral reallocation. Suggestive evidence on industrial upgrading among maquiladoras in response to competition with China is also provided. Overall the results provide additional insight into the way low-wage competition shapes the evolution of industries.

6. “Good countries or good projects? Macro and micro correlates of World Bank project performance” by Cevdet Denizer, Daniel Kaufmann, & Aart Kraay

This paper investigates macro and micro correlates of aid-financed development project outcomes, using data from over 6000 World Bank projects evaluated between 1983 and 2011. Country-level “macro” measures of the quality of policies and institutions are strongly correlated with project outcomes, consistent with the view that country-level performance matters for aid effectiveness. However, a striking feature of the data is that the success of individual development projects varies much more within countries than it doesbetween countries. A large set of project-level “micro” variables, including project size, project length, the effort devoted to project preparation and supervision, and early-warning indicators that flag problematic projects during the implementation stage, accounts for some of this within-country variation in project outcomes. Measures of World Bank project manager quality also matter significantly for the ultimate project outcomes. We discuss the implications of these findings for donor policies aimed at aid effectiveness.

7. “Mass education or a minority well educated elite in the process of growth: The case of India”  by Amparo Castelló-Climent, Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay

This paper analyzes whether mass education is more growth enhancing in developing countries than having a minority well educated elite. Using Indian Census data as a benchmark and enrollment rates at different levels of education, we compute annual attainment levels for a panel of 16 Indian states from 1961 to 2001. Results indicate that if the reduction in illiteracy stops at the primary level of education, it is not worthwhile for growth. Instead, the findings reveal a strong and significant effect on growth of a greater share of population completing tertiary education. The economic impact is also found to be large: a one percent change in tertiary education has the same effect on growth as a 13% decrease in illiteracy rates. A sensitivity analysis shows the results are unlikely to be driven by omitted variables, structural breaks, reverse causation or atypical observations.

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