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 - 5 of 5
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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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    Does What You Export Matter? In Search of Empirical Guidance for Industrial Policies
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2012) Lederman, Daniel ; Maloney, William F.
    Does the content of what economies export matter for development? And, if it does, can governments improve on the export basket that the market generates through the shaping of industrial policy? This book considers these questions by reviewing relevant literature and taking stock of what is known from conceptual, empirical, and policy viewpoints. A large literature answers affirmatively to the first question and suggests the characteristics that distinguish desirable exports. More prosaically, but no less controversially, goods which are intensive in unskilled labor are thought to promote 'pro-poor' or 'shared growth,' whereas those which are skilled-labor intensive are thought to generate positive externalities for society as a whole. Concerns about macroeconomic stability have led to a focus on the overall composition of the export basket. This book revisits many of these arguments conceptually and, wherever possible, imports heuristic approaches into frameworks where, as more familiar arguments, they can be held up to the light, rotated, and their facets examined for brilliance or flaws. Second, the book examines what emerges empirically as a basis for policy design. Specifically, given certain conceptual arguments in favor of public sector intervention, do available data and empirical methods allow for actually doing so with a high degree of confidence? In asking this question, the book assumes that policy makers are competent and seek to raise the welfare of their citizens. This assumption permits sidestepping the debate about whether government failures trump market failures generically: In this sense, the book attempts to 'give industrial policy a chance.'
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    Income Risk, Income Mobility and Welfare
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2012-10) Krebs, Tom ; Krishna, Pravin ; Maloney, William F.
    This paper develops a framework for the quantitative analysis of individual income dynamics, mobility and welfare. Individual income is assumed to follow a stochastic process with two (unobserved) components, component representing measurement error or transitory income shocks and an Autoregressive (AR(1)) component representing persistent changes in income. The analysis uses a tractable consumption-saving model with labor income risk and incomplete markets to relate income dynamics to consumption and welfare, and derive analytical expressions for income mobility and welfare as a function of the various parameters of the underlying income process. The empirical application of the framework using data on individual incomes from Mexico provides striking results. Much of measured income mobility is driven by measurement error or transitory income shocks and therefore (almost) welfare-neutral. A smaller part of measured income mobility is due to either welfare-reducing income risk or welfare-enhancing catching-up of low-income individuals with high-income individuals, both of which have economically significant effects on social welfare. Decomposing mobility into its fundamental components is thus seen to be crucial from the standpoint of welfare evaluation.