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Does institutional quality foster economic complexity?

Vu, Trung V. (2019): Does institutional quality foster economic complexity?

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It is well established in the long-term development literature that deeply rooted institutions are the fundamental drivers of comparative prosperity across the world. This study contributes to this line of inquiry by investigating the extent to which the quality of institutions helps shape international differences in economic complexity – a novel measure of productive capabilities. More specifically, economic complexity corresponds to an enhanced capacity to produce and export a diverse range of sophisticated (high-productivity) products, which is highly predictive of future patterns of growth and development. The central hypothesis is that institutions are linked to higher degrees of economic complexity via strengthening incentives for innovative entrepreneurship, fostering human capital accumulation, and directing human resources towards productive activities. Employing data for up to 115 countries, I consistently obtain precise estimates of the positive effects of institutional quality, measured by the Economic Freedom of the World Index, on economic complexity. The findings highlight the important role of establishing well-functioning institutions in driving structural transformation towards productive activities, which contributes to alleviating the persistence of underdevelopment.

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