The Observatory of Economic Complexity

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The Product Space is a network representation of the relatedness or proximity between products traded in the global market. The network exhibits heterogeneity and a core-periphery structure: the core of the network consists of metal products, machinery, and chemicals, whereas the periphery is formed by fishing, tropical, and cereal agriculture. The clusters of products in this space bear a striking resemblance to Leamer’s product classification system.

The Observatory of Economic Complexity is a data visualization site for international trade data created by the Macro Connections group at the MIT Media Lab. The goal of the observatory is to distribute international trade data in a visual form. At present the observatory serves more than 20 million interactive visualizations, connecting hundreds of countries to their export destinations and to the products that they trade.

Source data[edit]

The Observatory of Economic Complexity combines a number of international trade data sets, including data from Feenstra, Lipset, Deng, Ma, and Mo’s World Trade Flows: 1962-2000 dataset,[1] cleaned and made compatible through a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) project and HS4 aggregated from the HS6 BACI database made available from CEPII. The dataset contains exports and imports both by country of origin and by destination. Products are disaggregated according to the Standardized International Trade Code at the four-digit level (SITC-4) and the Harmonized Systems at the four digit level (HS-4).

Currently, data is available from 1962 through 2009.


Products, represented by rectangles, are drawn from the 775 individual product classes found in the Standardized International Trade Code at the four-digit level (SITC-4). The rectangle's color corresponds to the 34 product communities found in the Product Space and other visualizations from The Observatory of Economic Complexity. Product Exports Treemaps in the The Observatory of Economic Complexity graphically represent product's share of a nation's trade (imports or exports). The larger the size of the rectangle, the larger the product's share of that country's imports or exports.

An example from Benin in 2009 is shown on the right.

Additional visual representations include

See also[edit]


  1. ^ R.R. Feenstra, H.D. Lipsey, A. Ma, H. Mo, HBER Work. Pap 11040 (2005).

External References[edit]