Briefing: How the south was won?

This is the first in a series of short papers and acts as an introduction to the data and themes that will be explored throughout the City Evolutions project. Using data for 70 cities from 1971 to 1991 the paper highlights four key observations on employment growth, productivity change in the north and south, the story of the big cities and the story of London

Cities are widely recognised by governments across the developed world as key ‘engines’ of growth, creating jobs and spreading prosperity. In the UK, the introduction of City Deals and the evolving promotion of city- and metro-mayors by central government, and former Chancellor Osborne’s idea of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and the ‘Midlands engine’ all testify to the importance now assigned to cities as primary arenas of economic activity.

Despite this acceptance, less is known about how well have British city economies actually performed economically in recent years, how has this varied around the country. And this has important lessons for policies like the Northern Powerhouse. Using a unique new dataset, this paper, the first in a series, outlines how cities have performed over four and a half decades and offering four key observations on how Britain’s economy has evolved and diverged over time.

Download the paper