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Does Social Cooperation Affect Macroeconomic Performance? Research Project

Socio-Political Consequences of Regional Economic Divergence

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Stephen Fisher -face-pic.jpg

Principal Investigator: Stephen Fisher

Stephen Fisher is Associate Professor in Political Sociology and Fellow of Trinity College. His research focuses on political attitudes and behaviour, especially on elections and voting in Britain and elsewhere. He has developed a method for long-range election forecasting, which was covered extensively in the media in the 2015 UK General Election.  

Co-Investigators: Alexander Betts (Refugee Studies Centre)

Project Summary

Regional economic divergence may generate negative social and political outcomes. While Northern towns and cities have suffered loss of heavy industry, declining investment and brain drain, the macroeconomic success of London and the south may also have contributed to the decline of other regions.

The extent to which regional economic divergence has been accompanied by corresponding social and political divergences was what this project aimed to find out.

We generated regional indicators of various social and political outcomes primarily from the annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey series. These surveys are high-quality probability samples with face-to-face interviews and have been running since 1983.


Our findings show broad North-South regional economic divergence, especially with respect to London, but surprisingly little sign of corresponding divergence on a wide variety of social and political attitudinal measures, including happiness, interpersonal trust, political trust, political engagement, economic values, liberal values and party support.

There have been only slight tendencies to worsening self-reported health outcomes and greater political alienation in the North relative to the South. But at the same time there has been some convergence on economic left-right attitudes and party support over time.

One possible reason for the absence of much North-South socio-political divergence is that greater prosperity in the South may have been a mixed blessing, as greater income growth has been accompanied by rising intra-regional inequality and higher cost of living, particularly housing.

While there has been remarkably little change in broad North-South socio-political divides over the past forty years, in various respects both London and Scotland have followed distinct trajectories.



Working Paper

Socio-Political Consequences of Regional Economic Divergence in Britain: 1983-2018

Stephen Fisher, Martha Kirby, Eilidh Macfarlane | January 18, 2021

Final WP
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