Office of the Chief Economist Latin America and the Caribbean Region
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Fields of Specialization
Innovation, Labor Economics, Trade, Productivity, Private Sector Development, Financial Sector, Spatial economics
Office of the Chief Economist Latin America and the Caribbean Region
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Last updated October 3, 2023
William F. Maloney is Chief Economist for the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. Mr. Maloney, a U.S. national, joined the Bank in 1998 as Senior Economist for the Latin America and Caribbean Region. He held various positions including Lead Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist for Latin America, Lead Economist in the Development Economics Research Group, Chief Economist for Trade and Competitiveness and Global Lead on Innovation and Productivity. He was most recently Chief Economist for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions (EFI) Vice Presidency. From 2011 to 2014 he was Visiting Professor at the University of the Andes and worked closely with the Colombian government on innovation and firm upgrading issues. Mr. Maloney received his PhD in Economics from the University of California Berkeley (1990), his BA from Harvard University (1981), and studied at the University of the Andes in Bogota, Colombia (1982-83). His research activities and publications have focused on issues related to international trade and finance, developing country labor markets, and innovation and growth, including several flagship publications about Latin America and the Caribbean.He has published in academic journals on issues related to international trade and finance, developing country labor markets, and innovation and growth as well as several flagship publications of the Latin American division of the Bank, including Informality: Exit and Exclusion; Natural Resources: Neither Curse nor Destiny and Lessons from NAFTA, Does What you Export Matter: In Search of Empirical Guidance for Industrial Policy. Most recently, he published The innovation paradox: Developing Country Capabilities the Unrealized Potential of Technological Catch-Up and Harvesting Prosperity: Technology and Productivity Growth in Agriculture as part of the World Bank Productivity Project.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 10 of 22
Publication(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-09-01) Aroca, Patricio ; Bosch, Mariano ; Maloney, William F.This article employs established techniques from the spatial economics literature to identify regional patterns of income and growth in Mexico and to examine how they have changed over the period spanned by trade liberalization and how they may be linked to the income divergence observed following liberalization. The article first shows that divergence has emerged in the form of several income clusters that only partially correspond to traditional geographic regions. Next, when regions are defined by spatial correlation in incomes, a south clearly exists, but the north seems to be restricted to the states directly on the United States (U.S.) border and there is no center region. Overall, the principal dynamic of both the increased spatial dependency and the increased divergence lies not on the border but in the sustained underperformance of the southern states, starting before the North American free-trade agreement, and to a lesser extent in the superior performance of an emerging convergence club in the north-center of the country.
The Distribution of Income Shocks during Crises : An Application of Quantile Analysis to Mexico, 1992-95(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2004-05) Maloney, William F. ; Cunningham, Wendy V. ; Bosch, MarianoMoving beyond the simple comparisons of averages typical of most analyses of household income shocks, this article employs quantile analysis to generate a complete distribution of such shocks by type of household during the 1995 crisis in Mexico. It compares the distributions across normal and crisis periods to see whether observed differences were due to the crisis or are intrinsic to the household types. Alternatively, it asks whether the distribution of shocks during normal periods was a reasonable predictor of vulnerability to income shocks during crises. It finds large differences in the distribution of shocks by household types both before and during the crisis but little change in their relative positions during the crisis. The impact appears to have been spread fairly evenly. Households headed by people with less education (poor), single mothers, or people working in the informal sector do not appear to experience disproportionate income drops either in normal times or during crises.
Publication(Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004-11) Lederman, Daniel ; Maloney, William F. ; Servén, LuisAnalyzing the experience of Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), "Lessons from NAFTA" aims to provide guidance to Latin American and Caribbean countries considering free trade agreements with the United States. The authors conclude that the treaty raised external trade and foreign investment inflows and had a modest effect on Mexico's average income per person. It is likely that the treaty also helped achieve a modest reduction in poverty and an improvement in job quality.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2003-01) Maloney, WilliamThe author develops a view of the informal sector in developing countries primarily as an unregulated micro-entrepreneurial sector and not as a disadvantaged residual of segmented labor markets. Drawing on recent work from Latin America, he offers alternative explanations for many of the characteristics of the informal sector customarily regarded as evidence of its inferiority.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-12) Maloney, William F.Latin America missed opportunities for rapid resource-based growth that similarly endowed countries-Australia, Canada, Scandinavia-were able to take advantage of. Fundamental to this poor performance was deficient technological adoption driven by two factors. First, deficient national "learning" or "innovative" capacity, arising from low investment in human capital and scientific infrastructure, led to weak ability to innovate or even take advantage of technological advances abroad. Second, the period of inward-looking industrialization discouraged innovation and created a sector whose growth depended on artificial monopoly rents rather than the quasi-rents arising from technological adoption, and at the same time undermined resource-intensive sectors that had the potential for dynamic growth.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-12) Maloney, William F.Emergency programs are designed to soften the impact of economic crises-income shocks experienced by an entire community or country-on consumption and human capital accumulation. Of particular concern are poor people: as a result of inadequate savings or inadequate access to credit or insurance markets, the poor are unable to draw on resources from better times to offset a loss in income today. Further, the systemic nature of the shocks means that risk cannot be effectively pooled through local informal insurance mechanisms. Emergency interventions have included social funds, workfare programs, training programs, conditional transfers (linked to health center visits or children's school attendance, for example), and traditional direct, unconditional transfers in kind (such as communal tables or targeted food handouts). The author highlights some conceptual problems in choosing among these options and evaluating one program of a certain type relative to another. It argues that most such interventions can be thought of as containing both a transfer and an investment component and that their evaluation as emergency programs needs to more explicitly incorporate the intertemporal nature of their design. More specifically, the mandated investments in physical or human capital will benefit the poor, but only in the future-after the crisis-and their implementation diverts resources from alleviating present hardship. This needs to be reflected in the discount factor used to evaluate these investments. Maloney argues that the way emergency programs are financed, particularly the way the burden is shared between central and municipal governments, also has important implications for the criteria for evaluation. The analysis suggests that most conventional means of evaluating projects-net present value at market discount rates, labor intensity, cost per job created-may not be relevant or are at least ambiguous in the context of emergency programs. As a result, policymakers are left with few "hard" indicators with which to evaluate such programs. Maloney argues for an approach in which the policymaker weighs the appropriateness of deviations from the theoretically "ideal" benchmark program, which delivers a "smart" transfer costlessly to the target beneficiary, and discusses the arguments for or against these deviations. The modest goal of the proposed approach is to clarify the key issues and provide more solid grounding for the necessarily subjective judgment calls that policymakers will inevitably have to make.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2003-04) Lederman, Daniel ; Maloney, William F.Lederman and Maloney examine the empirical relationships between trade structure and economic growth, particularly the influence of natural resource abundance, export concentration, and intra-industry trade. They test the robustness of these relationships across proxies, control variables, and estimation techniques. The authors find trade variables to be important determinants of growth, especially natural resource abundance and export concentration. In contrast with much of the recent literature, natural resource abundance appears to have a positive effect on growth, whereas export concentration hampers growth, even after controlling for physical and human capital accumulation, among other factors.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2001-04) Maloney, William F. ; Nunez, Jairo ; Cunningham, Wendy ; Fiess, Norbert ; Montenegro, Claudio ; Murrugarra, Edmundo ; Santamaria, Mauricio ; Sepulveda, ClaudiaThe authors provide an overview of minimum wage levels in Latin America and their true impact on the distribution of wages, using both numerical measures and kernal density plots for eight countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, and Uruguay). They especially try to identify "numeraire" effects--where the minimum is used as a reference higher in the wage distribution--and "lighthouse" effects--where it influences wage setting in the unregulated or "informal" sector. Their main findings: First, statutory minimum wages are often misleading, and graphical methods may be more reliable. Second, the minimum wage's effect on wage setting extends far beyond what is usually considered and probably beyond the effect in industrial countries. Using panel employment data from Colombia, where minimum wages seem high and binding, the authors quantify the minimum wage's effects on wages and on the probability of becoming unemployed. The Colombian case confirms the evidence offered by kernal density estimates: 1) The minimum wage can have an important impact on wage distribution in the neighborhood of the minimum wage. 2) The effects echo up the wage distribution in a clear demonstration of the "numeraire" effect. That this effect is stronger in Latin America than in the United States suggests that the minimum wage induces further-reaching rigidities in the labor market. The trade-off between any possible effect on poverty and reduced flexibility is likely to be more severe in countries where this is the case. The effects on employment, and unemployment, are substantial. 3) Informal salaries wages are also affected, confirming the graphical evidence of strong lighthouse effects. Self-employment earnings are not, however, confirming that the minimum wage is not simply serving as a measure of inflationary expectations.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2008-06) Bosch, Mariano ; Maloney, WilliamThis paper analyzes the cyclical properties of worker flows in Brazil and Mexico, two important developing countries with large unregulated or informal sectors. It generates three stylized facts that are critical to the accurate modeling of the sector and which suggest the need to rethink the approaches to date. First, the unemployment rate is countercyclical essentially because job separations of informal workers increase dramatically in recessions. Second, the share of formal employment is countercyclical because of the difficulty of finding formal jobs from inactivity, unemployment and other informal jobs during recessions rather than because of increased separation from formal jobs. Third, flows from formality into informality are not countercyclical, but, if anything, pro-cyclical. Together, these challenge the conventional wisdom that has guided the modeling the sector that informal workers are primarily those rationed out of the formal labor market. They also offer a new synthesis of the mechanics of the cyclical adjustment process. Finally, the paper offers estimates of the moments of worker flows series that are needed for calibration.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2007-07) Maloney, William ; Rodríguez-Clare, AndrésThere is a common perception that low productivity or low growth is due to what can be called an "innovation shortfall," usually identified as a low rate of investment in research and development (R&D) when compared with some high innovation countries. The usual reaction to this perceived problem is to call for increases in R&D investment rates, usually specifying a target that can be as high as 3 percent of GDP. The problem with this analysis is that it fails to see that a low R&D investment rate may be appropriate given the economy's pattern of specialization, or may be just one manifestation of more general problems that impede accumulation of all kinds of capital. How can we know when a country suffers from an innovation shortfall above and beyond the ones that should be expected given the country's specialization and accumulation patterns? This is the question the authors tackle in this paper. First, they show a simple way to estimate the R&D gap that can be explained by a country's specialization pattern, illustrating it for the case of Chile. For this country they find that although its specialization in natural-resource-intensive sectors explains part of its R&D gap, a significant shortfall remains. Second, the authors show how a calibrated model can be used to determine the R&D gap that should be expected given a country's investment in physical and human capital. If the actual R&D gap is above this expected gap, then one can say that the country suffers from a true innovation shortfall.