Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Sylwester, Kevin

Abstract

The dissertation investigates the effects of real exchange rate undervaluations upon long-run economic growth and development and focuses on three issues. Rodrik (2008) claims that weak institutions hurt the development of the tradable sector more than that of the nontradable sector and that undervaluation can foster growth by diminishing the distortion created by weak institutions between the two sectors. Using the International Country Risk Guide (ICRG) dataset on four components of institutional quality, Chapter One of my dissertation examines the effects of investment profile, law and order, corruption, and bureaucratic quality upon the relative development of the tradable sector to the nontradable sector, which is measured by the ratio of industry value added to services valued added. On the basis of comparison of the two sectors, the panel evidence of 131 countries indicates that none of the four components mentioned above is positively associated with the relative development of the tradable sector to the nontradable sector. That is, the tradable sector does not suffer disproportionately (compared to the nontradable sector) from institutional weaknesses. Our results cast skepticism upon one of Rodrik's explanations on the growth-promoting effects of real undervaluation because the existence of such a distortion is not supported empirically. Chapter Two concentrates on the effect of real undervaluations on one key aspect of economic development, the income distribution. Based upon the recent availability of an undervaluation index and two databases on Gini coefficients, this study investigates how real undervaluations affect levels and changes in income inequality. The panel evidence of 136 countries indicates that real undervaluations are associated with a decline in levels of income inequality but have no significant association with changes in income inequality. Therefore, the relationship between real undervaluations and levels of income inequality is likely to stem from reverse causality. My main findings may help policymakers who attempt to use an undervaluation policy fully realize that real undervaluations will not hurt the distribution of income. Moreover, I also revisit Rodrik's growth regressions so as to investigate whether or not the same positive association between real undervaluations and economic growth held in Rodrik (2008) reoccurs in my sample. The results are somewhat mixed, depending upon which dataset is employed. Motivated by two distinct characteristics in economic performance of East Asia and Latin America in the past half century, Chapter Three explores the possibility that the difference in levels of domestic savings is one of the historical reasons that countries pursued different exchange rate policies. My panel evidence is somewhat mixed. The results based on the sample of all countries are consistent with the theoretical claim that real undervaluations can mitigate more imbalances and stimulate higher growth when the level of domestic savings is high. However, for the sample of developing countries, the results indicate that initial level of domestic savings does not matter for the growth-promoting effect of real undervaluation. On the contrary, it does matter across developed countries where internal imbalances are supposed to be less common relative to developing countries. This study suggests that more theoretical and empirical investigation is necessary in the future to disclose further the mechanism through which real undervaluations boost long-run growth.

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