An influential theoretical literature has observed that economic diversification can reduce risk and increase financial development. But causality operates in both directions, as a well functioning financial system can enable a society to invest in more productive but risky projects, thereby determining the degree of economic diversification. Thus, ordinary least squares (OLS) estimates of the impact of economic diversification on financial development are likely to be biased. Motivated by the economic geography literature, this paper uses instruments derived from topographical characteristics to estimate the impact of economic diversification on the development of finance. The fourth estimates suggest a large and robust role for diversification in shaping financial development. And these results imply that, by impeding financial sector development, the concentration of economic activity common in developing countries can adversely affect financial and economic development.
Each year natural disasters affect about 200 million people and cause about $50 billion in damage. This paper compares the incidence of natural disasters across countries along several dimensions and finds that the relative costs tend to be far higher in developing countries than in advanced economies. The analysis shows that small island states are especially vulnerable, with the countries of the Eastern Caribbean standing out as among the most disaster-prone in the world. Natural disasters are found to have had a discernible macroeconomic impact, including large effects on fiscal and external balances, pointing to an important role for precautionary measures.
The paper evaluates the impact of HIV/AIDS on welfare in several countries affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Unlike studies focusing on the impact of HIV/AIDS on GDP per capita, we evaluate the impact of increased mortality using estimates of the value of statistical life. Our results illustrate the catastrophic impact of HIV/AIDS in the worst-affected countries and suggest that studies focusing on GDP and income per capita capture only a very small proportion of the welfare impact of HIV/AIDS.