Economic Complexity
Parcours LEA - Affaires Economiques Internationales
Université de Toulouse 2 - Jean Jaurès [Nov. 4 - Dec. 2]


Pierre-Alexandre Balland (Utrecht University & MIT)



Economic complexity has emerged as a powerful paradigm to understand key issues in economics, geography, innovation studies, and other social sciences. Owing its popularity, in part, to its cross-disciplinary reach, the concept has shed new light on the variation in standards of living across nations (Hidalgo and Hausmann, 2009), differences in sophistication of technologies (Fleming and Sorenson, 2001), and the heterogeneous distribution of knowledge in space (Balland and Rigby, 2017). This excitement is not limited to academia. A host of policy institutions, ranging from international organizations such as the World Bank, World Economic Forum, European Commission, and OECD to national and local actors, have embedded both the methodology and conceptual framework of complexity into their core toolbox. Hence, as economic complexity moves from the periphery to the core of economic thinking and development policy, this class will equip students with the key concepts and tools of economic complexity. 


Lecture 1: Economic complexity and the wealth of nations [PDF]

Monday, Nov. 14 [14:00-18:00]

Room: M110 (bât. Philippe Malrieu)


Topics covered

- Why some countries are rich and other poor?

- How to characterize the economic structure of countries?

- What is economic complexity and how to measure it?




- Hidalgo, C. A., & Hausmann, R. (2009). The building blocks of economic complexity. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences, 106(26), 10570-10575 [PDF]

- Hausmann, R., Hwang, J., & Rodrik, D. (2007). What you export matters. Journal of economic growth, 12(1), 1-25 [PDF]

- The Observatory of Economic Complexity []


Lecture 2: The geography of complex knowledge [PDF]

Monday, Nov. 18 [14:00-18:00]

Room: M110 (bât. Philippe Malrieu)


Topics covered

- Why is knowledge so concentrated in space?

- Why knowledge does not travel well? 

- Why are cities the engines of the knowledge-based economy?




- Balland, P.A. and Rigby, D. (2017) The Geography of Complex Knowledge, Economic Geography, 93 (1): 1-23 [Abstract] [PDF]

- Balland, P.A., Jara-Figueroa, C., Petralia, S., Steijn, M., Rigby, D., and Hidalgo, C. (2019) Complex Economic Activities Concentrate in Large Cities, Nature Human Behavior  [Abstract]  [PDF] [Supplementary Material

- Uncovering tomorrow’s innovation hotspots (The Economist)


Lecture 3: Re-framing economic development: the principle of relatedness [PDF]

Monday, Nov. 25 [14:00-18:00]

Room: M110 (bât. Philippe Malrieu)


Topics covered

- How do countries and cities evolve over time?

- How to move from making bananas to making computers?

- What are the implications for policy?



- Hidalgo, C., Balland, P.A., Boschma, R., Delgado, M., Feldman, M., Frenken, K., Glaeser, E., He, C., Kogler, D., Morrison, A.,  Neffke, F., Rigby, D., Stern, S., Zheng, S., and Zhu, S. (2018)  The Principle of Relatedness, Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Complex Systems, forthcoming.  [Abstract]  [PDF]

- Hidalgo, C. A., Klinger, B., Barabási, A. L., & Hausmann, R. (2007). The product space conditions the development of nations. Science, 317(5837), 482-487 [PDF]

- Balland, P.A., Boschma, R., Crespo, J. and Rigby, D. (2018)  Smart Specialization policy in the EU: Relatedness, Knowledge Complexity and Regional Diversification, Regional Studies, forthcoming.  [Abstract]  [PDF]


Lecture 4: Students presentations and class debate

Monday, Dec. 2 19 [14:00-18:00]

Room: M110 (bât. Philippe Malrieu)

The last seminar of the class is structured around students' presentations and a class debate. Group of 3 students will prepare a 10-min presentation that should formulate an original claim on a key societal issue (inequality, future of work, brain drain, ...) that we covered in class. The presentation will be followed by feedback and debate from the class. Your performance during the presentation and your slide deck will be the only base for your grade. While preparing the presentation, make sure to:

- focus on a central message that you want to communicate (it can be a key issue that you discuss or a solution to an existing problem)

- substantiate your claim by facts and by building on the existing literature 

- prepare a slide deck (.ppt slides) that you will print and hand-in the day of the presentation

- do not write too much text on the slides, use a lot of images, graphs, etc

- write text in the slide notes (and print that too)

- rehearse your presentation at least 3 times before