A New Trichotomous Measure of World-system Position Using the International Trade Network

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Date Published:

Jul 9, 2009


Snyder and Kick’s (1979) measure of world-system position continues to serve as the premier trichotomous network indicator of a state’s location in the capitalist world economy. In this study, we identify several problems with this orthodox measure concerning its age, informal construction, and incorporation of inappropriate networks. We introduce a trichotomous network measure of world-system position that addresses these concerns, applying Borgatti and Everett’s (1999) core/periphery model to a three-tiered partition using international trade data. Our trichotomous measure of the trade network identifies an expanded core, consisting of an old orthodox core joined by a set of upwardly mobile states. We estimate the effect of world-system position on economic growth and find that our trade measure significantly outperforms Snyder and Kick’s orthodox measure. When controlling for human capital, the strong effects of our trade measure persist, while the weaker effects estimated by the orthodox measure largely disappear. Moreover, our models with human capital reveal that states economically converge within world-system zones, while continuing to diverge between zones.


Last updated on 07/26/2016