Two economists, Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and Cesar Hidalgo of MIT, have just released “Atlas of Economic Complexity,” which claims to be the best model yet for predicting how much nations will grow in the future. So what’s the secret?
As it turns out, the authors argue, the best way to tell how rich a country will get isn’t by looking at things like political institutions, or the rule of law, or even education levels. Nope, it’s far better to look at what they call a country’s “collective knowledge.” That means looking, primarily, at how many different products a country creates — and particularly how many unique products a country makes, things that no other countries are making (say, medical-imaging devices). For example, the authors note that Pakistan and Singapore both export a similar number of types of products. But Singapore’s exports tend to be relatively rarer on the world stage than Pakistan’s, and the country’s much richer as a result.