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The Origins of the Italian Regional Divide: Evidence from Real Wages, 1861–1913


  • Federico, Giovanni
  • Nuvolari, Alessandro
  • Vasta, Michelangelo


The origins of the Italian North-South divide have always been controversial. We fill this gap by estimating a new dataset of real wages (Allen 2001; Allen et al. 2011) from Unification (1861) to WWI. Italy was very poor throughout the period, with a modest improvement since the late nineteenth century. This improvement started in the Northwest industrializing regions, while real wages in other macro-areas remained stagnant. The gap Northwest/South widened until the end of the period. Focusing on the drivers of regional trends, we find that human capital formation exerted strong positive effect on the growth of real wages.

Suggested Citation

  • Federico, Giovanni & Nuvolari, Alessandro & Vasta, Michelangelo, 2019. "The Origins of the Italian Regional Divide: Evidence from Real Wages, 1861–1913," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 63-98, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:79:y:2019:i:01:p:63-98_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Carlo Ciccarelli & Matteo Gomellini & Paolo Sestito, 2019. "Demography and Productivity in the Italian Manufacturing Industry: Yesterday and Today," CEIS Research Paper 457, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 16 May 2019.
    2. Monica Bozzano & Gabriele Cappelli, 2019. "The legacy of history or the outcome of reforms? Primary education and literacy in Liberal Italy (1871-1911)," Department of Economics University of Siena 801, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    3. Nicola Pontarollo & Roberto Ricciuti, 2020. "Railways and manufacturing productivity in Italy after unification," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(4), pages 775-800, September.
    4. Chiaruttini, Maria Stella, 2020. "Banking integration and (under)development: A quantitative reassessment of the Italian financial divide (1814-74)," IBF Paper Series 03-20, IBF – Institut für Bank- und Finanzgeschichte / Institute for Banking and Financial History, Frankfurt am Main.
    5. Rota, Mauro & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2019. "Why was the First Industrial Revolution English? Roman Real Wages and the Little Divergence within Europe Reconsidered," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 400, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    6. Giacomo Gabbuti, 2020. "A Noi! Income Inequality and Italian Fascism: Evidence from Labour and Top Income Shares," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _177, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. Santiago Pérez, 2019. "Southern (American) Hospitality: Italians in Argentina and the US during the Age of Mass Migration," NBER Working Papers 26127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Federico Barbiellini & Matteo Gomellini & Lorenzon Incoronato & Paolo Piselli, 2020. "The Age-Productivity Profile:Long-Run Evidence from Italian Regions," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 2019, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    9. Gray, Rowena & Narciso, Gaia & Tortorici, Gaspare, 2019. "Globalization, agricultural markets and mass migration: Italy, 1881–1912," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 74(C).
    10. Maria Carmela Schisani & Luigi Balletta & Giancarlo Ragozini, 0. "Crowding out the change: business networks and persisting economic elites in the South of Italy over Unification (1840–1880)," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 0, pages 1-43.
    11. Yannay Spitzer & Gaspare Tortorici & Ariell Zimran, 2020. "International Migration Responses to Natural Disasters: Evidence from Modern Europe's Deadliest Earthquake," NBER Working Papers 27506, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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