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Unemployment clusters across Europe's regions and countries

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  • Henry G. Overman
  • Diego Puga

Abstract

High unemployment and regional inequalities are major concerns for European policy-makers, but so far connections between policies dealing with unemployment and regional inequalities have been few and weak. We think that this should change. This paper documents a regional and transnational dimension to unemployment - i.e., geographical unemployment clusters that do not respect national boundaries. Since the mid 1980s, regions with high or low initial unemployment rates saw little change, while regions with intermediate unemployment moved towards extreme values. During this polarization, nearby regions tended to share similar outcomes due, we argue, to spatially related changes in labour demand. These spatially correlated demand shifts were due in part to initial clustering of low-skilled regions and badly performing industries, but a significant neighbour effect remains even after controlling for these, and the effect is as strong within as it is between nations. We believe this reflects agglomeration effects of economic integration. The new economic geography literature shows how integration fosters employment clusters that need not respect national borders. If regional labour forces do not adjust, regional unemployment polarization with neighbour effects can result. To account for these 'neighbour effects' a cross-regional and transnational dimension should be added to national anti-unemployment policies. Nations should consider policies that encourage regional wage setting, and short distance mobility, and the EU should consider including transnational considerations in its regional policy, since neighbour effects on unemployment mean that an anti-unemployment policy paid for by one region will benefit neighbouring regions. Since local politicians gain no votes or tax revenues from these 'spillovers', they are likely to underestimate the true benefit of the policy and thus tend to undertake too little of it. Copyright (c) CEPR, CES, MSH, 2002.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by CEPR & CES & MSH in its journal Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 17 (2002)
Issue (Month): 34 (04)
Pages: 115-148

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ecpoli:v:17:y:2002:i:34:p:115-148

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  1. Davidson, Russell & MacKinnon, James G., 1993. "Estimation and Inference in Econometrics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195060119.
  2. Joan-Maria Esteban & Debraj Ray, 1991. "On the Measurement of Polarization," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 18, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  3. Costas Megir & Danny Quah, 1996. "Regional Convergence Clusters Across Europe," CEP Discussion Papers dp0274, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Fujita, Masahisa & Krugman, Paul, 1995. "When is the economy monocentric?: von Thunen and Chamberlin unified," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 505-528, August.
  5. Nickell, Stephen & Bell, Brian, 1995. "The Collapse in Demand for the Unskilled and Unemployment across the OECD," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 40-62, Spring.
  6. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 1991. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198284345.
  7. Quah, Danny T., 1996. "Regional convergence clusters across Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 951-958, April.
  8. Quah, Danny, 1996. "Regional Convergence Clusters Across Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 1286, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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