Recent research has highlighted that in the last few years, the evolution of regional disparities in many European states has become pro-cyclical. This represents a change with respect to the predominantly anti-cyclical pattern of the 1960s and 1970s. This paper addresses the question of whether and when this change has taken place in the southern periphery of Europe, before analysing the factors that may have played a role in such a change. The analysis relies on a regional database that includes the evolution of the GDP per capita of NUTS II regions in five European countries (France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) between 1980 and 2000. The results of the analysis support the hypothesis of a change towards a pro-cyclical evolution of regional disparities in the cases of Italy, Portugal, and Spain, but not in those of Greece and France. A relationship between these pro-cyclical patterns and the emergence of less dynamic sheltered economies is also detected in peripheral regions. This lack of dynamism is related to the fact that numerous peripheral areas in southern Europe have become increasingly dependent on factors such as transfers or public investment and employment, and therefore are less exposed to changes in market conditions
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