International Trade, Development Traps, and the Core-Periphery Structure of Income Inequality

Dominik Hartmann, Mayra Bezerra, Beatrice Lodolo, Flávio L. Pinheiro

Research output: Working paper


Research on economic complexity has shown that a country’s type of exports conditions its future path of economic diversification and economic growth. Yet little emphasis has been put on the inequality associated with the typesof products traded between countries and different regions of the world. Here we analyze the income inequality associated with the imports and exports of 116 countries in the period from 1970 to 2010. Our analysis shows thatmethodsfrom network science and visual complexity research can help to reevaluate old theories in economics, such as core-periphery structures in international trade orstructural development traps. Our resultsillustrate that the core-periphery tructure of global trade affects not only the income inequality between countries, but also the income inequality within countries. Moreover, theyreveal the structural constraints that developing and emerging economiesface in promoting inclusive growth and benchmark their productive transformations with cases of successful catching up and developed economies. The resultsshow that countries, such as South Korea or Germany, have benefited from outsourcing high inequality products. In contrast, some middle-income countries, such as Brazil or South Africa, face structural development constraints consisting of alarge average distance of their export products to low inequality products and a “gravitational force” towards high inequality products. Finally, developing economies, such as Nicaragua or Sri Lanka face a double development trap for inclusive growth, as their economies depend on both a large share of high inequality exports and imports.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationStuttgart
PublisherUniversity of Hohenheim
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2019

Publication series

NameHohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences,
ISSN (Electronic)2364-2084


  • Trade
  • Inequality
  • Economic complexity
  • Development trap


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