It’s been almost 10 years since a columnist first calculated that the UK had a lower GDP per capita than every American state bar Mississippi, says John Burn-Murdoch in the FT. So you’d imagine that having “half slumbered, half stumbled” our way through the intervening years – pausing for “occasional acts of egregious self-sabotage” – we may even have dropped below the Magnolia State. Happily not: by 2019, Britain was actually richer than America’s six poorest states. “Heady days, indeed.” But there’s another, more worrying comparison to be made. If we’re considering US states individually, why not look at the UK’s constituent parts?
It quickly becomes obvious that the UK has a remarkable “economic monopolarity”. Removing London’s output would shave 14% off British living standards, “precisely enough” enough to slip below the poorest American state. Compare that to amputating Amsterdam from the Netherlands, which would cause a drop of 5% in GDP, Munich from Germany (1%), or even the “opulent” San Francisco from the US (4%). Britons may have mixed feelings about London – which seems culturally more at home with New York than Newcastle – but it’s undeniably keeping the country “economically afloat”. We should be thankful our capital has weathered the Brexit storm “relatively well”: its economy is 4% larger than in 2019, “bucking the broader national trend of stagnation and decline”. But if Britain is to “banish the Mississippi Question” and spread the wealth amassed in its capital, “it will require more than one economic engine”.