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


  • Giovanni Federico


  • Alessandro Nuvolari


  • Michelangelo Vasta



The historical origins of the long lasting Italian North-South divide have always been controversial, but the scholarly debate has been hampered by the dearth of actual data on the size of the gap and its historical evolution. In this paper, we fill this gap by estimating a new provincial data-set of welfare ratios (Allen 2001) from the Unification of Italy in 1861 to World War One. Italy as a whole was very poor throughout the period, with a rather modest improvement since the late 19th century. This improvement had started in the North-West regions, the cradle of Italian industrialization, in the 1880s, while real wages in other macro-areas (North-East, Centre, South and islands) remained stagnant until the early 20th century, rising sizably only in the pre-war years. The gap between North-West and the South, already substantial in 1861 widened until the very end of the period. The Continental South was poorer than the North East, but not always of the Centre, while real wages in the Islands (i.e. Sicily) were close to national average.

Suggested Citation

  • Giovanni Federico & Alessandro Nuvolari & Michelangelo Vasta, 2017. "The Origins of the Italian Regional Divide: Evidence from Real Wages, 1861-1913," Department of Economics University of Siena 748, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:748

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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. Roberto Iacono & Marco Ranaldi, 2018. "Sources of Inequality in Italy," Working Papers 479, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    3. 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).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N01 - Economic History - - General - - - Development of the Discipline: Historiographical; Sources and Methods
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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