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PLoS One. 2017 Jun 27;12(6):e0179244. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179244. eCollection 2017.

Net profit flow per country from 1980 to 2009: The long-term effects of foreign direct investment.

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Department of Global Economics and Management, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.



The paper aims at describing and explaining net profit flows per country for the period 1980-2009. Net profit flows result from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock and profit repatriation: inward stock creating a profit outflow and outward FDI stock a profit inflow. Profit flows, especially 'normal' ones are not commonly researched.


According to world-system theory, countries are part of a system characterised by a core, semi-periphery and periphery, as shown by network analyses of trade relations. Network analyses based on ownership relations of TransNational Corporations (TNCs) show that the top 50 firms that control about 40% of the world economy are almost exclusively located in core countries. So, we may expect a hierarchy in net profit flows with core countries on top and the periphery at the bottom. FDI outflows from the core countries especially rose in the 1990s, so we may expect that the difference has grown in time.


A dataset on 'net profit flow' per country is developed. There are diverging developments in net profit flows since the 1980s, as expected: ever more positive for core countries, negative and ever lower for semi-peripheral and peripheral countries, in particular from the 1990s onwards. A fixed effects quantile regression using publicly available data confirms the prediction that peripheral countries share a unique characteristic: their outward investments do not have a positive influence on net profit flow as is the case with semi-peripheral and core countries. The most probable explanation is that peripheral outward investments are indirectly owned by firms located in core and semi-peripheral countries, so all peripheral profit inflows end up in those countries.

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