What Drives Specialisation? A Century of Global Export Patterns

Economists frequently argue that, with regard to international trade, low-income countries will automatically specialize in producing basic commodities, while high-income countries export a mixture of technologically sophisticated and simpler products. These differences are typically explained by variations in skills, production technology, and other endowments, with little reference to historical processes. In contrast, complexity economics suggests that past productive capabilities can determine future capacities. In an innovative new study, Prof. Isabella Weber (UMass, Economics), Gregor Semieniuk (UMass Economics and PERI), Tom Westland (Cambridge University), and Junshang Liang (UMass Economics) analyze data over an entire century, across very different forms of globalization, and show that history matters: early patterns of specialization have a strong impact on what the world’s economies look like today.  Read more