Addressing regional inequalities

Investing in regional equality – lessons from ten international case studies

"Unfortunately, there is no simple or quick fix to resolve some of the world's most pressing issues – like eradicating poverty, tackling climate change or improving access to healthcare and education. But we should still try."

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA Chief Executive

Download Investing in regional equality: lessons from four cities

Inequality stops nations from improving the lives of all their citizens. Countries cannot grow and move forward if they leave people behind – this is why overcoming social and economic inequality is so important. Yet it is everywhere, existing between people, cities and regions, across borders, and between countries. In the UK, the idea of inequality most often centres on the north-south divide.

Governments around the world have been developing policies to tackle inequality in their own populations. However, it's a highly complex problem, and there is no one single solution. CIPFA and the University of Birmingham have partnered to explore what cities have been doing to reduce inequality, and which methods have proven most effective.

We look at (1) Fukuoka in Japan, (2) Cleveland in the United States, (3) Leipzig in Germany and (4) Nantes in France. Within these city-regions, we worked with local organisations to understand the initiatives and strategies which were being used to overcome inequality and provide opportunities. In assessing the achieved outcomes, we identified metrics and their foundations for supporting robust appraisal and evaluation. 

In addition, we examine infrastructure projects of various scale and jurisdictions to understand how investment in infrastructure can contribute to fairer growth. These include (1) New South Wales in Australia, (2) the Smart Cities Mission across India, (3) Bilbao in Spain, (4) the Øresund region between Sweden and Denmark, as well as broadband networks in (5) Verrua Savoia in Italy and (6) rural Lithuania. 

Collectively, our research investigates ten international case studies to better understand how to invest in regional equality. The findings from this cross-cutting research can be found in our compendium of four reports: Investing in regional equality – lessons from four cities, Investing in infrastructure: enabling fairer growth, the role of public financial management and a framework for metrics. 

Our aim is to unpack what ‘levelling up’ looks like from a shared international experience, while providing evidence-based guidance to inform future government policies.


Key highlights

  • Reducing inequality is complex and there is no one simple fix; it requires a long-term, multi-faceted approach, with significant levels of funding to be most successful.
  • Learning from international examples can help explore alternative governance, fiscal and operational mechanisms. 
  • Within all the cities studied, there were key players that enabled growth – such as a charitable foundation, a charismatic mayor or a strong community programme. Partnership working to strengthen capacity is also important for achieving success in infrastructure projects. 
  • A clear vision and well-defined strategy for what the place should look like and how it should feel to live in are essential for successfully reducing inequality.
  • Political will, commitment and support across geographical scales is vital in making change happen.
  • Public sector institutions and finance professionals have a key role to play in measuring outcomes, ensuring value for money and building effective relationships with other national organisations.

Explore the key highlights

Investing in regional equality panel discussion

The team, along with their regional collaborators, discussed the report in a webinar on 3 March 2022. Partcipants in the discussion included

  • Jeffrey Matsu, Chief Economist, CIPFA
  • Abigail Taylor, Research Fellow, University of Birmingham City, REDI
  • Fumi Kitagawa, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Edinburgh
  • Emily Garr Pacetti, Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
  • Andrew Carter, Chief Executive, Centre for Cities

Infrastructure report

Investing in infrastructure – enabling fairer growth builds on the previous report and considers six infrastructure projects in different countries that have delivered meaningful local results.

Download the infrastructure report

Metrics report

To complement the main report, there is also a separate metrics report. This details the methods and processes used in the main report to measure the effectiveness of policies designed to address inequality.

Download the metrics report

Managing public finance to achieve fairer outcomes

Good public financial management is vital in addressing regional inequality. This report examines how a whole systems approach mobilises financial resources that enable public sector goals, such as overcoming social and economic inequalities.

Download the report

Contact us

For more information, contact the CIPFA press office, or Jeffrey Matsu, the report's co-author:

Micro Modules

Our micro modules are free of charge and offer quick introductions to selected topics. Prepared by CIPFA’s subject matter experts, they deliver key information in an easily digestible, online format.

View our micro modules on:

For the full list of our available micro modules, visit