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865. The polarisation of Italian metropolitan areas, 2000-2018: structural change, technology and growth

Working Paper n. 865 - Novembre 2021

Giuseppe Simone

PhD Student, DEPS, USiena


Large cities are a key driver of technological innovation and economic growth. This paper investigates the developments of Italian metropolitan areas, building on insights from economic geography and innovation studies. The key questions to be investigated are the following:
a) Which trajectories of population and economic change can be identified for Italian metropolitan areas? Are we facing a process of economic and technological polarisation that may worsen the country’s imbalances?
b) What is the role played in such developments by technological and structural change, and in particular by digital technologies and the rise of finance?
The empirical analysis investigates the patterns of technological and economic indicators for the period 2000-2018 for 14 Italian metropolitan areas – proxied by their provinces -, providing evidence of growing polarisation between Milan, where most positive developments are concentrated, and the other metropolitan zones. Rome has been losing ground in most fields; Venice and Genoa are characterised by industrial decline. Few mid-sized cities show some economic dynamism – including Bologna and Cagliari - while most southern and insular Italian cities increase their gap relative to the performances of leading metropolitan areas.


urban economics, statistical methods, economic polarization, metropolitan areas, divergence

Jel Codes

C10, O14, R11.