Rowena Hammal What is the north-south divide?

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Volume 23, Number 3, February 2014

UK politics

Two nations? The British north–south divide

Rowena Hammal

What is the north-south divide?

There are significant differences between the north and the south of Britain which collectively make up the north–south divide. The main features are shown below:


  • Incomes are lower in the north: in 2011 the average household gross disposable income in London was £20,509, compared to £13,560 in the north east

  • Benefits make up a lower proportion of incomes in the south

Economic activity


  • Jobs have been lost in the north at four times the rate they’ve been lost elsewhere in the country

  • the level of unemployment is generally higher in the north — 11.2% in the northeast in the last quarter of 2011, compared to 6.1% in the southwest, and the north is also home to more pockets of extremely high unemployment. For example in Glasgow almost a third of households have no one in work.

House prices

  • House prices are much lower in the north: in the norteast the average house price is £145,000, compared to £299,000 in the southeast


Life expectancy

  • Northerners are 20% more likely than southerners to die before they reach the age of 75

  • Nine out of the ten local authorities where people are most likely to die before the age of 75 are in the north (see map here)


  • People in the north are more likely to identify themselves as working class, even when on a similar income to those in the south who consider themselves middle class

See a map of the north-south divide here.

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