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729 new measures of economic complexity (Addendum to Improving the Economic Complexity Index)

Saleh Albeaik, Mary Kaltenberg (), Mansour Alsaleh and Cesar Hidalgo ()

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Abstract: Recently we uploaded to the arxiv a paper entitled: Improving the Economic Complexity Index. There, we compared three metrics of the knowledge intensity of an economy, the original metric we published in 2009 (the Economic Complexity Index or ECI), a variation of the metric proposed in 2012, and a variation we called ECI+. It was brought to our attention that the definition of ECI+ was equivalent to the variation of the metric proposed in 2012. We have verified this claim, and found that while the equations are not exactly the same, they are similar enough to be our own oversight. More importantly, we now ask: how many variations of the original ECI work? In this paper we provide a simple unifying framework to explore multiple variations of ECI, including both the original 2009 ECI and the 2012 variation. We found that a large fraction of variations have a similar predictive power, indicating that the chance of finding a variation of ECI that works, after the seminal 2009 measure, are surprisingly high. In fact, more than 28 percent of these variations have a predictive power that is within 90 percent of the maximum for any variation. These findings show that, once the idea of measuring economic complexity was out, creating a variation with a similar predictive power (like the ones proposed in 2012) was trivial (a 1 in 3 shot). More importantly, the result show that using exports data to measure the knowledge intensity of an economy is a robust phenomenon that works for multiple functional forms. Moreover, the fact that multiple variations of the 2009 ECI perform close to the maximum, tells us that no variation of ECI will have a performance that is substantially better. This suggests that research efforts should focus on uncovering the mechanisms that contribute to the diffusion and accumulation of productive knowledge instead of on exploring small variations to existing measures.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hme
Date: 2017-08
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