Spatial disparities in income and productivity are a feature of many countries. They arise in low income countries during the process of economic development and in high income countries that are experiencing, or have experienced, structural change. They are often persistent, lasting for many decades with consequent social and political implications. Economic adjustment mechanisms have failed to bring about convergence and policy interventions have often been unsuccessful.

The Research and Policy Network on Spatial Disparities and Policy will support research to deepen our understanding of the causes and consequences of these disparities, and to inform the design and implementation of policy to address them. It will promote collaborative research and information sharing, and will engage in dialogue with policy makers.

The network will address two over-arching questions. How can spatial disparities persist for long periods of time, even in relatively well integrated modern economies? What policy measures are effective in addressing the disparities and their adverse consequences?

The research agenda will be shaped by members of the network, addressing multiple aspects of these issues. What are the basic facts about disparities – their measurement, evolution, and correlates? To what extent are they due to agglomeration forces, to sorting of individuals, and to locational selection of firms? What are the market failures or other rigidities that prevent economic adjustment mechanisms from bringing about convergence? What policies have been successful and what have failed? How does governance – in particular the balance between centralized and devolved authority – contribute to regional performance? What do we learn from the experience of differing countries and regions?

The work will draw on multiple disciplines and sub-disciplines and on the international experience provided by members of the network.