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 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 13
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(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2014-03) Maloney, William F. ; Sarrias, MauricioUsing 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.
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, 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, 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, 2007-10) Bosch, Mariano ; Goni, Edwin ; Maloney, WilliamThis paper studies gross worker flows to explain the rising informality in Brazilian metropolitan labor markets from 1983 to 2002. This period covers two economic cycles, several stabilization plans, a far-reaching trade liberalization, and changes in labor legislation through the Constitutional reform of 1988. First, focusing on cyclical patterns, the authors confirm that for Brazil, the patterns of worker transitions between formality and informality correspond primarily to the job-to-job dynamics observed in the United States, and not to the traditional idea of the informal queuing for jobs in a segmented market. However, the analysis also confirms distinct cyclical patterns of job finding and separation rates that lead to the informal sector absorbing more labor during downturns. Second, focusing on secular movements in gross flows and the volatility of flows, the paper finds the rise in informality to be driven primarily by a reduction in job finding rates in the formal sector. A small fraction of this is driven by trade liberalization, and the remainder seems driven by rising labor costs and reduced flexibility arising from Constitutional reform.
Labor Market Dynamics in Developing Countries : Comparative Analysis using Continuous Time Markov Processes(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2005-04) Bosch, Mariano ; Maloney, WilliamThe authors study the dynamics of three developing country labor markets using recent advances in the estimation of continuous time Markov processes. They first examine the flows of workers among five states: three types of paid labor, unemployment, and out of the labor force. The authors find a high degree of commonality in patterns of worker flows among the three countries and attempt to compare the flexibility of the markets by examining an index of overall mobility. Second, they seek to establish whether the issues of advanced country labor markets apply to developing country markets or whether the latter constitute a different phylum. Paralleling the mainstream literature on the role of being out of the labor force as discouraged unemployment, the authors then identify some common stylized facts about the role of the informal self-employed and salaried sectors and to what degree they serve as a holding pattern versus a desirable alternative to formal sector work. In the process, the authors identify very strong differences in mobility patterns between men and women and attempt to shed some light on whether these differences arise from discrimination or perhaps instead the constraints imposed by household responsibilities. Finally, they study labor market adjustment across the business cycle in Mexico and identify patterns of job creation and destruction among the three paid sectors and confirm the mainstream view of the role of out of the labor force as a procyclical phenomenon.
Publication(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.'
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-05) Gill, Indermit S. ; Maloney, William F. ; Sanchez-Paramo, CarolinaThis note synthesizes the findings of research on trade and labor in the region, including World Bank studies on: (i) trade and job quality, (ii) informality, and (iii) labor policies in the region. First, the evidence on the relationship between trade liberalization, macro-restructuring and labor market outcomes during the 1990s is reviewed. Second, labor market rigidities will be analyzed and the extent to which reform efforts facilitated formal employment creation. Finally, based on lessons learned from the 1990s, a new agenda for labor market reform is proposed which reflects more closely the new environment in which Latin American governments now operate.