The regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe


Europe is currently suffering a deep political and economic crisis following years of turmoil and austerity measures that have disproportionately and brutally hit the most disadvantaged regions and citizens across most of the continent. At the same time, there has been a revival of nationalisms and divisions in this part of the world that, a decade ago, seemed to be united in diversity and moving towards ever-closer union. Concentrated poverty near to riches and profound spatial inequality have long been persistent features of all European countries, with disparities often being most stark within the most affluent cities and regions, such as London. In other parts of Europe levels of inequality and poverty have been reducing and are often much lower. However, the severe economic crisis and austerity measures have led, in many cases, to an enhancement of existing disparities. The following eight maps show how the regional geography has changed in the light of these developments:

Analysing the regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe: Mapping GDP
(click for larger version)

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In Focus: Where Art meets Science

Political InsightPublic spending cuts have been an important part of the political debate in Britain in recent years. In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (April 2016, Volume 7, Issue 1) Danny Dorling and I plotted the distribution of funding for the arts and universities in England.
The United Kingdom, and especially England, has become geographically extremely unequal. This inequality is not only seen in growing economic disparities within the population, but also becomes increasing visible across all parts of public life, such as science and education, as well as the arts. A report on arts funding in 2013, highlighted just how concentrated such funding was within London compared to the rest of the country. This represents the continuation of a now long-established trend.

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Wealth increase 2010-2015

Some recent maps on this website were closely related to the direct or indirect implications that the global downturn had on people’s lives across the globe: Be it the slowed-down but still growing carbon emissions, the poor state of well-being seen from a more sustainable point of view, or the distribution of wealth.
How this all related to each other has recently been commented by Peter Victor in Nature, who argues that “our global economy must operate within planetary limits to promote stability, resilience and wellbeing, not rising GDP” (Questioning economic growth, Nature 468: 370–371).
The previously published GDP map on the global distribution of GDP for 2010 and 2015 gives a good indication how little the distribution of global wealth has changed, and where the nations of the world are that may reconsider their attitude towards further growth. The map is less useful to see the dimension of changes and to see how little things have changed so far: The rich countries getting richer and the poor countries trying to catch up with these developments – and still, rising levels of global inequalities and further socio-economic disparities. This is shown in the following map, which displays the absolute growth derived from the GDP estimates for 2010 and 2015. The map thus shows the countries resized to the total growth that is expected for all countries in the given timespan and gives a clear picture of where the growth is largest (apparently, G20 countries dominate much of this cartogram. The colour key for the countries adds another dimension by showing the rate of growth reached 2015 compared to the level of 2010, an indicator that shows the most dynamic economies in the years to come – and those which kept on producing more carbon emissions despite the recession:

Map of global GDP growth 2010-2015
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Financial meltdown, recovery, inequality, injustice. Doom and gloom everywhere. But the world has been a strange place before, and it is very much about money. The following music video assembles a showcase of worldmapper maps to the lyrics and music of Money, a song by N.A.S.A. feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge & Z-Trip:

Money – Worldmapper Edition

There is a HD version available on YouTube, where you can also access the full accompanying lyrics as subtitles.

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin Hennig. Please contact me for further details on the terms of use.

Angles, Saxons, Inequality, and Educational Mobility in England and Germany

Good politics has always seen well-funded, public provision of education as a vital pathway to delivering the Good Society. This article draws on recent evidence from Germany and the UK to show that even in more equal societies, such as Germany, attention still needs to be paid by progressive politicians to education – in particular, the importance of non-elitist, comprehensive education systems for all, regardless of means.

Educational systems in England and Germany affect social inequalities in different ways. Social inequalities are narrower in Germany, but not thanks to German education systems. The English education system is highly discriminatory too, but it would be a mistake to believe that the German model is much better.
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  • Dorling, D. and Hennig, B. D. (2010). Angles, Saxons, Inequality, and Educational Mobility in England and Germany. Social Europe Journal.
    pdf icon Article as PDF ; Article online
  • Inequalities and Educational/Social Mobility

    The content on this page has been created by Benjamin Hennig. Please contact me for further details on the terms of use.