We mailed letters to non-existent business addresses in 159 countries (10 per country), and measured whether they come back to the return address in the US and how long it takes. About 60% of the letters were returned, taking over 6 months, on average. The results provide new objective indicators of government efficiency across countries, based on a simple and universal service, and allow us to shed light on its determinants. The evidence suggests that both technology and management quality influence government efficiency, just as they do that of the private sector.
We use a newly assembled sample of 1,528 regions from 83 countries to compare the speed of per capita income convergence within and across countries. Regional growth is shaped by similar factors as national growth, such as geography and human capital. Regional convergence rate is about 2% per year, comparable to that between countries. Regional convergence is faster in richer countries, and countries with better capital markets. A calibration of a neoclassical growth model suggests that significant barriers to factor mobility within countries are needed to account for the evidence.