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Cultural and psychological factors holding back competitiveness in northern regions

11 December 2017


The underlying social culture and psychological traits of individuals within the regions and cities of Britain are determining factors of their overall economic competitiveness.

This is one of the findings of a new report that publishes the results of a wide-ranging survey of the behaviour of individuals across Britain’s regions and cities and the economic performance of these locations.

Compiled by Professor Robert Huggins of Cardiff University and Dr Piers Thompson of Nottingham Business School, the report finds a marked North-South divide with regard to cultural values such as collective and cooperative behaviour.

Wales, Scotland, the North East and North West of England are the most culturally collective regions. Behaviour that can be regarded as agreeable and amenable is also more likely to be found in these regions, but at the same time these regions encounter significant competitiveness deficits. The report argues that such behavioural traits have a negative impact on economic performance in the lagging regions and cities of northern Britain.

Individuals possessing a personality that is more open to new ideas and change tend to be found in greater numbers in the most advanced and economically developed parts of Britain, especially south east of England. The report suggests that having people with the ‘right’ personality in a region or city may be an important influence on its long-term economic performance. Regions that possess above an average number people with a high level of individual commitment, especially toward work and educational goals, tend to be more competitive, and again are more clustered in the southern parts of the nation.

High rates of cultural diversity and individuals with an extravert personality are more likely to achieve stronger economic performance, with London and neighbouring regions having a significantly above average proportion of people with these psychological traits and cultural attributes. Conversely, regions such as those in the northern parts of Britain that are more socially inclusive often experience relatively low rates of competitiveness.

Professor Huggins, of the University’s School of Geography and Planning said: “Cosmopolitan behaviour tends to foster greater economic strength, and hints at the possibility that some regions and localities often in the north and more peripheral parts of Britain exhibit the ‘wrong’ type of behaviour when it comes to catalysing economic development. Cities and regions with a high proportion of people portraying behaviour that is agreeable and cohesive are not always best situated for generating the highest rates of economic development. Such a cultural and psychological profile may have significant positive benefits with regard to social development and well-being, but they do not always appear to the ‘right’ ingredients for stimulating economic development.”

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