Kicking a Crude Habit: Diversifying away from Oil and Gas in the Twenty-first Century

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Josef Korbel School of International Studies, International Studies


Petroleum, Diversification, Education, Rule of law, Institutions


This article investigates the correlates of diversification away from oil and natural gas dependence in the context of the twenty-first century resource boom (and bust). In a sample of 40 oil- and gas-dependent economies, the majority showed significant sectoral diversification of GDP, but exports remained highly concentrated in fuel exports. Regression analysis indicates that countries that began the boom with higher levels of oil and gas dependence, poorer countries, and those with significantly larger- or smaller-than-average populations were more successful in diversifying their GDP during the commodities boom. Governance matters – more effective, capable bureaucratic structures are associated with greater GDP diversification away from oil and gas – though the effects are not uniformly positive. For any given level of government effectiveness, stronger rule of law is associated with less GDP diversification. Education appears to affect GDP and export diversification differentially. Consistent with endogenous growth theory, countries with more educated populations saw greater growth in their nonresource sectors than countries with less educated populations, though education is associated with greater export concentration. Internal economic diversification in the twenty-first century has been less a matter of policy formation and implementation, and more a matter of factors that shape the policy-making environment.

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