Geography, state capacity and economic change. A spatial approach to development and its determinants in peripheral economies (19th-21st centuries)

2019-2021: Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades, PGC2018-095821-B-I00

IPs: Alfonso Herranz (Universitat de Barcelona) and Julio Martinez-Galarraga (Universitat de València)


This project aims to describe and analyse the main patterns and drivers of regional economic inequality in the long run in three world areas: South-Western Europe, Latin America and Africa. More specifically, this project aims at enlarging the country sample and indicators of the previously available international databases of regional inequality, and at exploring the determinants behind the evolution of regional disparities in peripheral countries (compared with the industrialised core), including additional Latin American economies and some African countries, as far as possible. Our main hypothesis is that, unlike what happened in industrialised countries, regional inequality in primary exporting economies was mainly dependent on the interaction between the inherited population distribution, the location of natural resources and the degree of integration in the international economy. In addition, in peripheral economies, domestic market integration, the ability to exploit location-specific natural resources and the degree of international integration largely depended on state capacity which, in turn, was largely dependent on the ability to take advantage of international demand and the available natural resources. Therefore, in order to obtain an adequate understanding of the determinants of regional inequality in peripheral regions, we will explore the interaction between regional disparities, natural resources, international integration and state capacity.

Research lines

To extend the available international database of regional per capita GDP estimates. In the case of Latin America, we expect to expand the current historical database (including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay) with at least three addtional countries: Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela. In the case of Africa, we will explore the possibility of measuring regional inequality since the late 19th and early 20th century for several countries or colonies, based on the available information.


To improve our knowledge of the evolution of regional inequality with additional variables, with a specific focus on welfare indicators. Our objective is to enrich the regional inequality database of income per capita at least in two directions: first, using regional prices to construct regional PPPs that will allow correcting nominal prices bias in those regions with commodity booms, and better capture differences in living standards across regions; and, second, building a database on human capital indicators in order to approach regional inequality in welfare levels.


To provide a better characterisation and explanation of the historical evolution of regional inequality in primary exporting countries. We will analyse the interaction between regional disparites, natural resources, the degree of domestic market integration and the integration in the international economy in a context of large changes in trade costs (both domestic and internationa), and the distribution of population across territory.


To analyse the mutual influence between a spatially-polarised development and state capacity in peripheral countries. We will explore the mutual relationship between regional inequality, the abilitty to exploit location-specific natural resources and state capacity, taking into account the mutual dependence between both explanatory factors.



  • Pablo Astorga Junquera (Barcelona Institute for International Studies, IBEI)
  • Marc Badia Miró (Universitat de Barcelona)
  • Yolanda Blasco Martel (Universitat de Barcelona)
  • Anna Carreras Marín (Universitat de Barcelona)
  • Antonio Cubel Montesinos (Universitat de València)
  • Sergio Espuelas Barroso (Universitat de Barcelona)
  • Alfonso Herranz-Loncán (Universitat de Barcelona) (Investigador principal)
  • Dácil Tania Juif (Universidad Carlos III)
  • Julio Martínez Galarraga (Universitat de València) (Investigador principal)
  • Katharina Muhlhoff (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)
  • Maria José Murgui García (Universitat de València)
  • Maria Teresa Sanchis Llopis (Universitat de València)
  • Francisco Javier Sanjulián Arrupe (Universitat de Barcelona)
  • Isabel Sanz Villarroya (Universidad de Zaragoza)
  • Xavier Tafunell Sambola (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
  • Daniel A. Tirado Fabregat (Universitat de València)


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