The decline of the North in England

A fascinating study in the UK:

Despite significant regional government aid, the north of England and Wales lag the south in output per person, educational attainment, and other social indicators (e.g. Crafts 2005, Geary and Stark 2015, 2016). Value added per person is more than 40% higher in the south. The fraction of 18 year-olds winning admission to Oxford or Cambridge is double in the south.

Using information on surnames that were northern (including Welsh) or southern in origin in pre-industrial England, in a recent paper we show that the decline of the north is entirely a product of the sorting of migrants by ability into a high-ability south and low-ability north over the last 200 years (Clark and Cummins 2018). 

Migrants out of the north have had high abilities, and migrants into the north low abilities. As a consequence, those of northern English origin– as opposed to those still living in the north – show no disadvantage in outcomes at the national level in modern England. The disadvantages observed among those still in the north are completely compensated by the advantages seen among those with northern surnames in the south, where they are an elite.

The policy implication of this finding is that despite poorer social outcomes, those living in northern England and Wales do not face social or economic disadvantages relative to those living in the south.

Fascinating study.

The economic decline of the north of England and Wales has been regarded by many policymakers as a market failure that requires government intervention to correct. Part of the justification for the huge proposed expenditures of HS2, for example, have been the need to revive the economy of the north.

We show using the evidence of surname origins, however, that the decline of the north is purely a product of regional sorting by economic ability, and not the consequence of any market failure. The northern population, given its characteristics, is doing as well as the equivalent population in the south. There is no regional problem requiring solution in England.

Not sure policy makers can do much about it, unless they ban internal migration.

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