The impact on economic growth as resources shift from one sector to another is difficult to interpret, as they are likely to be coupled with productivity changes and therefore the sole impact of a relative price change is hard to quantify. 2.2 Terms of trade volatility and economic growth. The Impact of the Terms of Trade on Economic Development in the Periphery, 1870-1939: Volatility and Secular Change. Powell (1991) found that after allowing for three breaks in the series, non-oil commodity prices and manufactured good prices are cointegrated, implying that the commodity terms of trade is stationary and therefore not declining over time. As movements in the terms of trade reflect changes in relative prices, it is often unclear how these movements affect the real economy. Real gross domestic income (RGDI) measures the purchasing power of the total income generated by domestic production. Because of this volatility, interpreting results concerning trends in commodity prices (and the terms of trade) is difficult. Although they do not decide on an explanation for this, they suggest a possible reason. They also found that this was particularly the case for developing nations whose exports are dominated by primary commodities. They suggest it could be due to what has come to be known as “resource curse”.
Using a new panel database for 35 countries, this paper estimates the impact of terms of trade volatility and secular change on country performance between 1870 and 1939. Volatility was much more important for accumulation and growth than was 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. Become a subscriber NBER Research Disclosure Policy Close Activities NBER activities are organized into Programs and Working Groups. An external shock such as an increase in prices which benefits one sector of the economy often leads to increased investment in this area or resources shifting to this sector from another. They find that for the majority of commodities, a single downward trend is not the best representation but rather a “shifting trend” which often changes sign over the sample period is more appropriate. This later became known as the Harberger-Laursen-Metzler effect. However, there are studies that disagree with the Prebisch-Singer hypothesis of a secular decline in real commodity prices. Hadass and Williamson (2001) found that the growth performance of developing nations was reduced by global terms of trade shocks between 1870 and World War I relative to developed countries. Williamson NBER Working Paper No.
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