Britain has a long history of a north-south divide in social and economic outcomes, with longstanding concerns about the British economy being over-reliant on London and the South East whilst the rest of the country lags behind. The EU referendum vote threw this into sharp relief, illuminating another split between the diverse, young, metropolitan centres and the smaller towns with industrial heritage. This divide partly reflects the geography of the 'knowledge economy' labour market, in which concentrations of skilled workers and high-wage industries in prosperous cities are increasingly seen as the driver of national economic prosperity.
Using a novel economic geography classification, this presentation explores trends in social and economic inequalities within and between areas of Britain, including the north-south divide and differences between core cities and peripheral towns. It illustrates this by updating a 1994 study of Oldham and Oxford, towns in the north and south of England respectively that had experienced a rapid decline in manufacturing employment. The study showed that as income inequalities increased during the 1980s, so there were corresponding patterns of increased spatial polarisation in Oldham, though less so in Oxford. This presentation examines the fortunes of these two towns in the 25 years since, setting them in the wider context of trends in spatial inequalities within and between places across Britain.
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