Are regional inequalities in income per head a permanent feature of modern economies that have existed at every stage of their development; from the pre-industrial period to the present? Or, instead, are they to be conceived as a by-product of the industrialisation process itself — a sort of temporary penalty due to the slow diffusion of technological change or to the imperfect working of the market? On the assumption that significant changes first appear in a single region, it has been convincingly asserted that a few centres in the main industrial countries were able to improve their position from the start by attracting labour (and the most active), by concentrating capital for investment and the power to innovate, while the rest of the country suffered from restricted markets, loss of skilled hands, and, increasingly from the sheer inability to adapt to change. In such a situation, so long as the lack of interregional linkages prevailed, any dispersion of wages between regions was likely to rise in a cumulative way until the reduction of transport costs, the spread of education and wage increases lowered internal barriers and brought about a major transfer of surplus labour from agriculture to industry, and the levelling of marginal productivities.l The outcome should be a two-stage sequence of widening and narrowing spatial inequality which is often presented as a standard pattern to be found in all industrialising countries.
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