Maloney, William Francis

Office of the Chief Economist Latin America and the Caribbean Region
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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 April 4, 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.  
Citations 199 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
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    Engineers, Innovative Capacity and Development in the Americas
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-03) Maloney, William F. ; Valencia Caicedo, Felipe
    Using newly collected national and sub-national data, and historical case studies, this paper argues that differences in innovative capacity, captured by the density of engineers at the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution, are important to explaining present income differences, and, in particular, the poor performance of Latin America relative to North America. This remains the case after controlling for literacy, other higher order human capital, such as lawyers, as well as demand side elements that might be confounded with engineering. The analysis then finds that agglomeration, certain geographical fundamentals, and extractive institutions such as slavery affect innovative capacity. However, a large effect associated with being a Spanish colony remains suggesting important inherited factors.
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    Convergence to the Managerial Frontier
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-03) Maloney, William F. ; Sarrias, Mauricio
    Using detailed survey data on management practices, this paper uses recent advances in unconditional quantile analysis to study the changes in the within country distribution of management quality associated with country convergence to the managerial frontier. It then decomposes the contribution of potential explanatory factors to the distributional changes. The United States emerges as the frontier country, not because of better management on average, but because its best firms are far better than those of its close competitors. Part of the process of convergence to the frontier across the development process represents a trimming of the left tail, much is movement of the central mass and, for rich countries, it is actually the best firms that lag the frontier benchmark. Among potential explanatory variables that may drive convergence, ownership and human capital appear critical, the former especially for poorer countries and that latter for richer countries suggesting that the mechanics of convergence change across the process. These variables lose their explanatory power as firm and average country management quality rises. Hence, once in the advanced country range, the factors that improve management quality are less easy to document and hence influence.
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    Why Don't Poor Countries Do R&D?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-03) Goñi, Edwin ; Maloney, William F.
    Using a global panel on research and development (R&D) expenditures, this paper documents that on average poor countries do far less R&D than rich as a share of GDP. This is arguably counter intuitive since the gains from doing the R&D required for technological catch up are thought to be very high and Griffith et al (2004) have documented that in the OECD returns increase dramatically with distance from the frontier. Exploiting recent advances in instrumental variables in a varying coefficient context we find that the rates of return follow an inverted U: they rise with distance to the frontier and then fall thereafter, potentially turning negative for the poorest countries. The findings are consistent with the importance of factors complementary to R&D, such as education, the quality of scientific infrastructure and the overall functioning of the national innovation system, and the quality of the private sector, which become increasingly weak with distance from the frontier and the absence of which can offset the catch up effect. China's and India's explosive growth in R&D investment trajectories in spite of expected low returns may be justified by their importing the complementary factors in the form of multinational corporations who do most of the patentable research.
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    The Persistence of (Subnational) Fortune : Geography, Agglomeration, and Institutions in the New World
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-09) Maloney, William F. ; Caicedo, Felipe Valencia
    Using subnational historical data, this paper establishes the within country persistence of economic activity in the New World over the last half millennium. The paper constructs a data set incorporating measures of pre-colonial population density, new measures of present regional per capita income and population, and a comprehensive set of locational fundamentals. These fundamentals are shown to have explanatory power: native populations throughout the hemisphere were found in more livable and productive places. It is then shown that high pre-colonial density areas tend to be dense today: population agglomerations persist. The data and historical evidence suggest this is due partly to locational fundamentals, but also to classic agglomeration effects: colonialists established settlements near existing native populations for reasons of labor, trade, knowledge and defense. Further, high density (historically prosperous) areas also tend to have higher incomes today, and largely due to agglomeration effects: fortune persists for the United States and most of Latin America. Finally extractive institutions, in this case, slavery, reduce persistence even if they do not overwhelm other forces in its favor.
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    Productivity Revisited: Shifting Paradigms in Analysis and Policy
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2018-10-25) Cusolito, Ana Paula ; Maloney, William F.
    The stagnation of productivity in the developing world, and indeed, across the globe, over the last two decades dictates a rethinking of productivity measurement, analysis, and policy. This volume presents a 'second wave' of thinking in three key areas of productivity analysis and its implications for productivity policies. It calls into question the measurement and relevance of distortions as the primary barrier to productivity growth; urges a broader concept of firm performance that goes beyond efficiency to quality upgrading and demand expansion; and explores what it takes to generate an experimental and innovative society where entrepreneurs have the personal characteristics to identify new technologies and manage risk within an entrepreneurial ecosystem that facilitates them doing so. It also reviews arguments surrounding industrial policies. The authors argue for an integrated approach to productivity analysis that incorporates both the need to reduce economic distortions and generate the human capital capable of identifying the opportunities offered to follower countries and upgrade firm capabilities. Finally, it offers guidance on prioritizing policies when there is uncertainty around diagnostics and limited government capability.
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    The Innovation Paradox: Developing-Country Capabilities and the Unrealized Promise of Technological Catch-Up
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2017-10-03) Cirera, Xavier ; Maloney, William F.
    Since Schumpeter, economists have argued that vast productivity gains can be achieved by investing in innovation and technological catch-up. Yet, as this volume documents, developing country firms and governments invest little to realize this potential, which dwarfs international aid flows. Using new data and original analytics, the authors uncover the key to this innovation paradox in the lack of complementary physical and human capital factors, particularly firm managerial capabilities, that are needed to reap the returns to innovation investments. Hence, countries need to rebalance policy away from R&D-centered initiatives – which are likely to fail in the absence of sophisticated private sector partners – toward building firm capabilities, and embrace an expanded concept of the National Innovation System that incorporates a broader range of market and systemic failures. The authors offer guidance on how to navigate the resulting innovation policy dilemma: as the need to redress these additional failures increases with distance from the frontier, government capabilities to formulate and implement the policy mix become weaker. This book is the first volume of the World Bank Productivity Project, which seeks to bring frontier thinking on the measurement and determinants of productivity to global policy makers.