Closing the Gap or Widening the Divide? A 10-year analysis of disposable income in Ireland’s counties

Closing the Gap or Widening the Divide?

A 10-year analysis of disposable income in Ireland’s counties

The recovery of Ireland’s economy from the 2008 crisis has been labelled by many people as a ‘two-tier’ one, with Dublin leading the way while the rest struggling.

In 2014, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) released figures of disposable income in Ireland’s counties in 2011. There have in consequence seen reports analysing the data and suggesting Dublin was the only county with disposable income increasing following the economic crash.

Indeed, Dubliners saw their spending power rise from an average of €20,697 in 2010 to €21,329 in 2011, while the rest continued to see their average disposable income per person falling during the same period.

This blogpost aims to provide a longer perspective on the issue of county-level disposable income in Ireland, examining the relevant data between 2002 and 2011.

Table 1: Index of disposable income per person by county (or city) and census year (Ireland=100)

County 2002 2008 2011 Δ 2008-2011 Δ 2002-2011
Carlow 84.7 93.3 96.7 3.4 12.0
Donegal 75.7 79.7 83.4 3.7 7.7
Leitrim 86.0 92.6 92.4 -0.2 6.4
South Tipperary 92.6 97.1 98.8 1.7 6.2
Sligo 89.5 93.5 95.6 2.1 6.1
Galway (City and county) 90.2 96.8 96.2 -0.6 6.0
Kerry 83.4 86.1 89.3 3.2 5.9
Mayo 86.9 89.1 92.4 3.3 5.5
Limerick (City and county) 95.7 97.2 101 3.8 5.3
Cork (City and county) 97.0 98.7 102.2 3.5 5.2
Wexford 88.8 96.4 92.0 -4.4 3.2
North Tipperary 92.2 95.1 95.1 0.0 2.9
Laois 90.6 92.6 92.9 0.3 2.3
Kilkenny 88.0 94.7 89.2 -5.5 1.2
Cavan 86.8 90.8 87.9 -2.9 1.1
Ireland 100.0 100.0 100.0 0.0 0.0
Westmeath 94.6 90.8 93.7 2.9 -0.9
Offaly 89.0 87.4 88.1 0.7 -0.9
Monaghan 86.3 88.1 85.3 -2.8 -1.0
Longford 91.6 90.1 90.0 -0.1 -1.6
Waterford (City and county) 98.7 97.6 96.6 -1.0 -2.1
Clare 94.0 94.8 91.6 -3.2 -2.4
Meath 100.3 101.8 97.4 -4.4 -2.9
Roscommon 90.2 90.6 86.0 -4.6 -4.2
Louth 99.4 98.9 95.0 -3.9 -4.4
Dublin (City and county) 116.7 112.1 111.9 -0.2 -4.8
Kildare 109.5 106.9 103.8 -3.1 -5.7
Wicklow 105.2 99.0 98.4 -0.6 -6.8

Source: CSO.

Table 1 shows the disposable income levels of Ireland’s counties in 2002, 2008 and 2011, all in relative to the state average of 100. In particular, the counties are ranked by the last column – the change between 2002 and 2011 – to indicate what places have been climbing up and what places have been falling down.

Carlow and Donegal are the two most impressive areas, where the disposable income levels have increased by more than 7 percentage points, followed by Leitrim, South Tipperary and Sligo.

By contrast, counties of Kildare and Wicklow have seen their positions significantly weakening with a decline of more than 5 percentage points in the index. County Wicklow, of which the disposable income level index was 105.2 in 2002, fell behind the national average in 2011.

Dublin, when the city and county combined, also witnesses a sharp drop (4.8 percentage points) in the index of disposable income.

The next to the last column further shows how the counties performed after the economic crisis took place in 2008. Donegal once again is among the areas showing the largest positive improvements, following closely just behind Limerick. Kilkenny and Roscommon, instead, have been hit hard by the crisis.

During the period 2008-2011, Dublin (city and county) saw a modest decrease of its index from 112.1 to 111.9, suggesting a continuing narrowing gap between itself and the national average.

Although it might be right that Dublin was the only county that saw its disposable income per person increasing in 2011, one should not ignore the fact that the advantage of Dublin has been diminishing in the longer perspective. More importantly, counties like Limerick, Donegal, Carlow, Mayo, Kerry and Cork, have been catching up, even during the recent difficult years.