There is no smoldering crisis, but global economic geography is changing in ways both quick and quirky. Since 2008, the share of the world’s economies that are converging to the per capita income of the United States has fallen from nearly 90 percent to less than 50 percent. Trade is in retreat, and international flows of capital have dropped to a fraction of what they were a decade ago. At the same time, new technologies promise—or threaten—to radically change the shape and size of cities, regions, and international trade.
These changes are manifest in worrisome developments. In India and Africa, cities are becoming clogged with people as urbanization gathers speed. In Europe and the United States, migrants are getting an increasingly hostile reception. In East and Central Asia, China is suddenly cementing trade and investment relations with its neighbors, coaxing them into adopting a “Chinese model” of development, and making others jittery.
On March 25, the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings hosted an event on the 10th anniversary of the 2009 World Development Report, “Reshaping Economic Geography,” which pointed to agglomeration, migration, and specialization as the forces that carved out the pathways to prosperity for people everywhere. Now it is time to see whether the last decade has validated the report’s messages or exposed flaws in its framework. Indermit Gill and Somik Lall first presented on three big developments in economic geography since 2009. A discussion with a panel of experts followed. After the discussion, the panelists answered questions from the audience.