In the South, education levels are lower than average

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If the economic North-South divides are known and those regarding the demographic future of the two areas are emerging with ever greater force, it seems appropriate to also focus on other less well-known aspects in which this dichotomy is highlighted.

One of these phenomena is constituted by the levels of study which today, thanks to the transformation of demographic censuses, can be measured at a faster rate over time. And what do these data tell us? That the South has lower levels of education than the country average. Two indicators in particular tell us this. The first is the share of people in possession of a master’s degree and/or doctorate in the total population at least nine years of age. In the South this percentage stands at 10.2%, approximately 1.2 percentage points less than the national average, with Sicily, Puglia and Sardinia monopolizing the podium of the least educated regions of Italy. And the situation is even worse if we shift attention to a more composite indicator that takes into account all the qualifications held and which translates into the average number of years of study. In this case, in fact, the six southern regions are all placed in the last places in the ranking of Italian regions. And shifting the focus from the provinces to the regions highlights how Oristano, Barletta-Andria-Trani and Southern Sardinia close a ranking which in the last 15 positions includes 14 southern provinces. It can then be said that there is a South within the South That is, there is (indeed not only in the South) a clear dichotomy in terms of education levels between urban and more rural areas. The average number of years of study in the provincial capitals of the South exceeds that of other municipalities by around 7%, but also reaches over 10% in 17 provinces with peaks of 17% in Oristano and around 15% in the Caserta area, in the Lecce and Nuoro areas.


In the South, higher levels of education are also accompanied by better performance in different areas. We mention two of them. A better known one is linked to the employment levels of graduates. The employment rate of graduates in the 15-64 age group in the South is close to 72% (71.6%), exceeding the overall figure for the area by 26 percentage points, while in Italy as a whole this gap is approximately 20 points. But there are also aspects linked to participation in social life.

One above all is that of electoral participation. In an area where the data from the latest political elections in 2022 show turnout levels around 10 percentage points lower than the national average, a boost to this participation comes precisely from the areas where education levels are higher. In the 226 municipalities with an average number of years of study above the national average, the turnout was 57.9% compared to 54.1% in the other municipalities. A differential that appears rather clear especially in the provinces of Foggia, Cosenza, Nuoro and Oristano where it stands between 7 and 8 percentage points.

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