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Maloney, William

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
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Office of the Chief Economist Latin America and the Caribbean Region
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Last updated: October 3, 2023
Biography
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 202 Scopus

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Learning to Learn: Experimentation, Entrepreneurial Capital, and Development

2021-12, Maloney, William F.

This paper models an entrepreneur’s choice between investing in a safe activity or experimenting with a new risky one, and how much to invest in the “entrepreneurial capital” that would permit more effective use of the arriving information on the latter- how much to learn how to learn. Optimal investment in entrepreneurial capital depends the expected return on the risky activity. It can lead to three learning regimes, two of which can generate a development trap where firms and countries are unable to assess the potential of newly arriving technologies and hence grow more slowly. The first arises purely because it is too expensive to learn to learn, the second because the returns to the new activity are so high that they obviate the need to distinguish between activities and hence invest in entrepreneurial capital. The paper draws on historical evidence to show how the model offers insights into three understudied features of the industrialization process in the Western Hemisphere at the beginning of the 20th century: the disproportionate influence of immigrant/foreign entrepreneurs in driving industrialization in Latin America; the emergence of selective exceptions to this pattern, as well as episodes of entrepreneurial retrogression; and the differing effects of similar economic structures across countries that suggest the possibility of a learning-displacing resource curse. The model can simulate the respective decline and boom in the Chilean and US copper industries at the turn of the century, arising either from initially high relative returns or low initial endowments of entrepreneurial capital in the latter.