Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ireland's strangely equal regions

Reading this summary of OECD's Regions at a Glance 2011 I noticed the graph below, comparing OECD countries by the extent of inequality between the regions of each country in terms of household income, physician density, basic education and mortality rate.
Ireland shows extremely low levels of inequality between its regions for these indicators. My first thought was that Ireland must have low regional inequality, with all regions being roughly similar. Then I remembered something that made me laugh - Ireland actually has only two subnational regions for these statistics! The entire country is split very crudely into the Border, Midlands and Western Region and the Southern and Eastern region.
There are differences between the two regions, but dividing the country so crudely down the middle cannot give very clear indications of these differences. Czech Republic, which in the first graph shows a high degree of regional inequality, is formed of eight regions. The United States is actually split into its states, so no wonder it shows higher levels of diversity between them!

So one wonders how useful the top graph really is. There could be deep regional inequalities in Ireland which our simple division is too crude to measure. If the US was split into two regions it would probably show less diverse or unequal results too.

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