NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Terms of Trade and Economic Growth in the Periphery 1870-1938

Christopher Blattman, Jason Hwang, Jeffrey G. Williamson

NBER Working Paper No. 9940
Issued in September 2003
NBER Program(s):   DAE   ITI

The contending fundamental determinants of growth -- institutions, geography and culture --exhibit far more persistence than do the growth rates they are supposed to explain. So, what exogenous shocks might account for the variance around those persistent fundamentals? The terms of trade seems to be one good place to look. Using a panel data base for 35 countries, this paper estimates the impact of terms of trade volatility and secular change between 1870 and 1938. We find that volatility was much more important than secular change. Additionally, both effects were asymmetric between core and periphery, findings that speak directly to the terms of trade debates that have raged since Prebisch and Singer wrote more than 50 years ago.

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