One of the most annoying aspects of the post-Westphalian era is the conceit that all national administrative units are equivalent in some deep fundamental sense. So, for example, you get comparisons of per capita income for nations, and Luxembourg and Lichtenstein inevitably show up at the top of the rankings. Everyone knows that this is a farce, but a nation is a nation, and one must honor the ideal, even when it leads us to bizarre assessments like this. Luxembourg has a population of 500,000, and is a little dot of a nation. It’s really ludicrous to compare it to Italy, which spans the gamut from Milan’s value-added wealth to Puglia’s spare poverty.
But with modern statistical tools and GIS software we can disaggregate the mishmash of administrative units which coalesce together to constitute large amorphous nations, and actually compare like to like. In this way those of us who haven’t traveled all around the world, and actually lived “on the ground,” can get a sense for fine-scale variation which all the locals have as part of their background information. This is what the Eurostat Yearbook is handy for. In particular, I love their NUT2 and NUT 3 visualizations. NUT 2 specifically is good for someone like me with a modest amount of geographical knowledge, since these units often correspond to historical regions which we’re familiar with (e.g., Catalonia, Tuscany, etc.).
Below are a selection of maps which I think are informative and interesting. But please note that some of these maps are generated from mid-2000s to 2007 data. This means there are going to be some obvious inflation of values for Ireland, inflation through fraud in Greece, and the property bubble in Spain. With those caveats, here’s GDP:
My title alludes to the fact that from what I can tell the old core Hapsburg domains come off particularly well when you disaggregate from the scale of nation to region. Austria, southern Germany, and northern Italy would make Max Weber very happy, even though the Hapsburgs expelled their Lutherans and positively persecuted their Calvinists.
But GDP can be deceptive. Let’s look at disposable income:
It seems France does better, and Scandinavia does worse, by this measure. European readers might know better than I how this is calculated, as it may simply be that Scandinavians engage in more payment transfers which come back to individuals, but aren’t counted as “income.”
Now, population growth in the mid-2000s:
A lot of this has to be migration, internal to the European Union (“Polish plumbers”), as well as immigration from Asia, Latin America (Spain), and Africa. This is really noticeable as a change in Spain and Italy, which have flipped from being migration sources to destinations.
Speaking of internal migration, the movement of young people to urban conurbations and economically dynamic regions is pretty clear in this snapshot of dependency ratios (the number of those over 64, to those in the 15-64 range):
Next we move to the employment rate. I assume this is just the proportion who could be employed, who are employed (includes those who aren’t looking for work, and voluntarily do not participate in the labor force):
Here you have the northern Protestant fringe of Europe along with the old German Catholic core. Scandinavia and the Netherlands have very high labor force participation rates for women, though in the latter case apparently a lot of that is part time (by choice). I presume that in Germany you are seeing the impacts of economic arrangements which mitigate against shedding excess workers.
What about older workers? Here the pattern gets interesting and less predictable:
There are two cases where there’s a lot of labor force participation by older workers. Northern Europe, which doesn’t have low retirement ages, and underdeveloped regions in the east where presumably there isn’t a generous pension system. The “wine belt” though likes to kick back during their golden years.
Finally, let’s look at unemployment rate:
The old Communist German Democratic Republic jumps out at you on these sorts of maps. Not only is eastern Germany filled with old people, but the young who remain seem to be more likely to be unemployed. Last I checked Ossis stilled had not closed the productivity gap. But it isn’t just the Ossis in Germany, some of the western Saxon regions seem to be laggards as well. In contrast, there seems to be a low unemployment high productivity economic regime all across the core of the Hapsburg personal domain in Central Europe, from Bohemia, to Austria, down to northern Italy.