Visual Insights from the Growth Lab’s 2023 Research

December 14, 2023

The Growth Lab works to push the frontier of economic growth and development policy research, and our multi-disciplinary team extended our pioneering research agenda to five continents in 2023. Our researchers engaged the world in leveraging decarbonization as a pathway for growth, identifying the barriers to migration and mobility of skills, examining inequality in cities and the effects of remoteness on growth, and understanding the role of innovation in economic complexity. It’s our mission to collaborate with policymakers and share our insights with the world through teaching, publications, and open-access digital tools. In this spirit, here are some visual insights from our research in 2023.

Building Roads to Include Remote Areas in South Africa

A lack of road connectivity in South Africa reduces the comparative advantages of its rural former homelands, which are home to a large share of the population. This map highlights roads over population density in quintiles: highest in red, lowest in white. The absence of paved roads not only adds hours to production and travel times, but also dramatically increases damage to sensitive products and disruptions in supply chains. In the context of South Africa's duality between competitive commercial agriculture in some parts of the country, and unproductive smallholder agriculture in others, the disadvantage of road connectivity has large implications.

Source: Hausmann et al. (2023) “Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa"

Racial Dynamics in American Industries

The Growth Lab is conducting research on racial inclusion within U.S. cities, focusing on industry and occupation levels. The study examines the representation of Black workers in various industries compared to their labor force proportion. The accompanying chart shows the most disproportionately represented industries for Black workers, where Construction is notably underrepresented nationally, despite its size. The research suggests educational attainment, such as having a bachelor's degree, may account for some disparities, as indicated by the chart's color coding. Ongoing work will further analyze racial and gender aspects to inform policies for equitable economic growth in cities.

Malaysia in the Scientific Field Space

Between 2007 and 2020, Malaysia significantly enhanced its scientific capabilities by branching into fields complementary to its existing strengths. The illustrated "Scientific Field Space" network maps these advancements, with nodes symbolizing scientific fields. These nodes vary in size according to global publication volume, and connections (edges) reflect author collaborations across fields. A field's node is color-coded if Malaysia's publishing activity exceeds expectations relative to its population (Revealed Per Capita Advantage >= 1). Initially focused on Engineering and Computer Science, Malaysia now boasts robust publishing in diverse areas, including Medicine, Biology, Chemistry, and Social Sciences.

Geography of Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing in North America

For small, isolated areas, economic diversification challenges stem from limited industrial capabilities. The accompanying maps display industry employment figures for peers of Casper, Wyoming, chosen based on remoteness and population relative to Casper. Control Instrument Manufacturing sees employment in the low thousands across these areas, while Semiconductor Manufacturing rarely exceeds a few hundred employees; notably, none have a workforce in Securities and Commodity Exchanges. Clearly, smaller regions must assess which industries are viable for their size before advancing development efforts.

UAE and its Positioning Within Green Supply Chains

Entering into green supply chains will become a significant growth and diversification opportunity. In this work, we show which part of the respective green supply chains the UAE already has a comparative advantage. The products in which the UAE does have an advantage are relatively less complex. While this indicates that there will be significant gains from entering those supply chains, it is also not an easy task given the UAE's current economic structure.

Grapes Production, Land and Yields in Namibia

Namibia's arid conditions are a challenge for agriculture development in most of its regions. Nonetheless, over the past two decades, the country’s agriculture industry has expanded, particularly with fruit exports across the south. This growth brought new jobs and has the potential to expand further, but relied on expanding farmland rather than raising productivity—unlike global trends since the Green Revolution, which increased food production using less land. The figure visualizes Namibia’s agriculture growth problem as studied by Fortunato & Enciso-Valdivia (2023).

Distribution of Employment Rates Across Mexico and South Africa

Whereas regional divides in employment rates are not uncommon along the path of economic development, the extent to which South Africa is unequal in space is unique. When compared to Mexico, a country with a similar level of GDP per capita, we observe that South Africa’s employment rates vary enormously across municipalities. Furthermore, the highest employment municipalities in South Africa tend to have lower employment rates than the lowest employment municipalities in Mexico.

Firm Composition, by Year of Firm Creation, in UAE Free Zones

Free zones have been a crucial element of UAE’s policy to diversify its economy away from oil and to attract Foreign Direct Investment. In the beginning (Jebel Ali was created in 1985), free zones mainly attracted firms focused on re-exporting activities; however, as the UAE became more developed and its free zones became more specialized, the sophistication of its activities increased, and its industry composition diversified. Today, firms created inside free zones are concentrated prominently in professional services, trade, and transportation while also having a presence from manufacturing firms, financial activities, and education and healthcare services.