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Investigating Regional Disparities in Italy’s Well-Being Since Unification (1871–2011)


The paper investigates the wellbeing development of Italian regions since 1871. To this aim we use 4 aggregating methods (arithmetic mean, geometric mean, Leontief production functions, adjusted Mazziotta and Pareto index) to summarize 22 indicators over 6 domains of wellbeing from a multidimensional perspective; this approach allows us to assess differences arising from the adopted aggregation method. Over the 140 years under investigation and selected sub-periods we study \(\sigma \)-, \(\gamma \)- and \(\beta \)- convergence and we shed new light on the relative performance and historical development of Italian regions, with convergence occurring only in selected domains.

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Fig. 1

Source: shapefiles from ISTAT. In red the North, in white the Centre and green the South

Fig. 2

Source: Authors’ computations

Fig. 3

Source: Authors’ computations


  1. Ciommi et al. (2017a) propose a long-run wellbeing analysis of Italy based on the multidimensional approach proposed by OECD ‘s “How was life?” (Van Zanden et al. 2014) analysis and the framework of BES, which is the national “going beyond GDP” project adopted by Italian National Statistical Institute (ISTAT 2015). The choice of 6 domains was the best feasible selection of wellbeing dimensions arranged on the basis of available data, i.e. 41 nationwide indicators (with only objective and official nationwide measures). Similarly, in this work 6 domains out of 22 territorial indicators are the best feasible multidimensional analysis of Italian regions over the long run we could elaborate as in Chelli et al. (2018).

  2. See Mazziotta and Pareto (2014, p. 129) on how to settle properly Goalpost.

  3. The coefficient of variation is usually preferred in convergence analysis as it is not affected by measurement unit nor on the indicators’ size (Dalgaard and Vastrup 2001; Monfort 2008; Bucur and Stangaciu 2015).

  4. Punctual results may change accordingly to a different settled year as goalpost (we did the analysis also with 1871 and 1951 as controls); however, indexes’ dynamics and rankings do not change and the problem of falling outside boundaries persists.

  5. Even though Molise was constituted as independent region 1963 data are reliable since the 1951 census.

  6. Full estimates are available upon request.


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Correspondence to Andrea Gentili.

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Chelli, F.M., Ermini, B., Gallegati, M. et al. Investigating Regional Disparities in Italy’s Well-Being Since Unification (1871–2011). Ital Econ J (2022).

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  • Regional inequality
  • Convergence
  • Equitable and sustainable wellbeing

JEL Classification

  • N94
  • R11
  • Q01