Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is Part of Italy in the Third World?

I wanted to see if other wealthy countries were similar to the US in having a region within their borders that doesn't really live up to the standards of human development that are generally found in the developed world. Italy has the 19th highest HDI score in the world, slightly below that of the US; but like the United States, it's known for the discrepancy between its wealthy and industrialized North and its poorer and more agrarian South. So I looked at the human development index scores of the regions of Italy, found in this paper (pdf); here's what they show.

Here are the specific HDI values.

Piedmont - .919
Emilia Romagna - .910
Marches - .909
Latium - .907
Tuscany - .907
Friuli Venezia Giulia - .906
Valle d'Aosta - .905
Liguria - .904
Umbria - .902
Lombardy - .901
Veneto - .901
Abruzzo - .900
Trentino Alto Adige - .896
Molise - .894
Basilicata - .883
Sardinia - .881
Calabria - .872
Apulia - .868
Sicily - .864
Campania - .857

Now, there's a bit of a complication here. For reasons I can't figure out, the authors of this paper are using HDI numbers for regions that would imply an overall HDI for Italy far below its "official" HDI (in 2006) of .945. So if anything, this data must be understating the level of development in Italian regions, relative to the numbers I used for US states. Nonetheless, the numbers are still useful for showing the relative levels of development of the regions of Italy. And even if these (evidently low) HDI numbers are taken at face value, it's clear that the variance between Italian regions is far less than that between states in the US, where the range is between .799 for Mississippi and .962 for Connecticut - a spread of .163. In Italy, the difference between Campania (.857) and Piedmont (.919) is only .062.

Furthermore, no region in Italy is close to as underdeveloped as the states of the underdeveloped core of the US. Again, even comparing these apparently low numbers to other countries finds that the least developed region of Italy - Campania - is comparable Uruguay or Cuba, above countries like Mexico and Bulgaria, and well above the underdeveloped core of the US, the top HDI of which goes to Kentucky, at .820. And of course if the Italian numbers were projected upward to fall in line with an overall Italian HDI of .945, even Campania would be at or near .900 - comarable to Portugal or the Czech Republic and completely leaving the underdeveloped core of the US South in the dust.

In short: no, part of Italy is not in the Third World.

(By the way, that paper documents that the north, which generally has the highest per capita GDPs in Italy, slips a bit, and the central regions improve, when you look at HDI. For example, Valle d'Aosta, Trentino Alto Adige, and Lombardy have the three highest per capita GDPs, but are only ranked 6th, 13th, and 9th, respectively, among Italian regions in terms of HDI; whereas Marches and Tuscany, ranked 11th and 10th in terms of GDP, jump to 2nd and 3rd in terms of HDI.)


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The mezzogiorno has had a rough time of it ever since the power center moved from naples north to rome. (not to say it had only smooth sailing before then). It's been the traditional mafia stronghold and the area was pillaged and plundered by politicians, businessmen, etc. (all with a bent visage).

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