Tuesday, 1 August 2017

How migration caused the North-South divide

Yorkshire Day perhaps isn't the best day to share these findings but they tell a different story from the one we're usually told. I also appreciate, since I live here, that whatever they say all the best and brightest live in Yorkshire.

The thing is, however, that some clever folk at the London School of Economics (Gregory Clark, UC Davis and Neil Cummins) have looked at whether the North's relative economic underperformance is about "bad geography" or "bad people". And I hate to be the bringer of bad news but these folks at LSA have analysed surnames, probate records, MPs, doctors and other measures of social status like going to Oxford and discovered that the North's relative problem is down to the best and brightest in every generation heading South. Not just recently but more-or-less since records began (for the purposes of this research that is about 1840).

Our researchers conclude:
The poorer economic and social outcomes in the north of England have two possible sources. The first source is negative economic shocks in the early twentieth century that blighted the traditional industries of the north, and disadvantaged thereafter those born in the north in terms of employment opportunities, education and health. The second source is the selective outmigration of those with greater social status from the north to the south. In this paper we present good evidence in favor of the second interpretation, both using surname evidence and data on individual families.

Holders of surnames concentrated in the north in the 1840s were not disadvantaged in recent years in terms of education, occupation, political power, or wealth compared to the holders of surnames concentrated in the south in the 1840s. Since they are even now disproportionately located in the north any geographic disadvantage of that area would have reduced their social status. Further holders of northern surnames dying in the south were wealthier than holders of southern surnames dying in the south. And in sign that migration to the north was of less advantaged southerners, holders of southern surnames dying in the north were no richer that northern surname holders dying in the north. These northern surnames dying in the north were an adversely selected group, so the southern migrants must also be adversely selected.
To put it more simply: since about 1870 there has been a net out-migration from the North of England to the South of England and most of the migrants are, for want of a better term, the 'best and brightest'. The often noted regional inequality isn't down to the actions of government but rather to the choices of people.



Anonymous said...

But what causes the 'best and the brightest' to make those choices? It's the actions, or inactions, of government.
Throughout that reference period, governments of all shades have consistently focused the best infrastructure and services in the South, mainly because that is where 'government' lives.

Whether that's roads, rail, airports, education, medical services, industry, media, culture, they all enjoy far greater support, encouragement and financing from government, hence the whole place is better served, so the spiral of attraction increases, just as the spiral of decline offers the reverse image in the out-lands of the North.

If government really wanted to address it (which it doesn't), it would locate the Commons in Coventry, the Lords in Liverpool, the MOD in Manchester, the Supreme Court in Sheffield, the Home Office in Huddersfield, the Treasury in Todmorden etc. - then sit back and watch the wealth follow the work out of the perpetually pampered South.

This is a cause & effect issue - the migration southwards is an effect, not a cause.

Anonymous said...

I do wish that people would stop thinking that The North ends in Yorkshire - there is an even more northerly and abandoned area usually called (when not being ignored) the North East.