It is difficult to assess the economic and social situation of a country on the basis of macro-economic parameters, especially when you tend to do so for a time past. Firstly, because the national accounts, as we understand it today, were defined only in the 30s of XX century, while before that date they are highly uncertain. Of major importance for the study of economic development, are the projections made by Angus Maddison on behalf of the OECD that give us the value of the product per capita, corrected for purchasing power (PPP, purchasing power parity) for past centuries; their limitation is that they can not take into full account the change in the terms of trade.
As for Italy, in 1861, per capita according to Maddison was equal to $ 1,447 GK (dollar Geary Khamis) to compare with $ 2,884 GK UK, the $ 1,769 GK France, the $ 1,236 GK Spain; for comparison, the same figure for Italy in 2008 is worth $ 19,909 GK. After the unification of the product per capita calculated remained substantially constant up to the mid-80s of the twentieth century, then it began a slow growth that led to $ 1,785 in 1900. GK From 1861 to 1900 Italy had therefore had a growth of 23.3%, compared with 55.7% in the United Kingdom, 62.5% in France and 43.1% in Spain. Unfortunately we did not find data disaggregated by region, so you can not use this information for the period prior to unification.
Other important data to be assessed are the life expectancy at birth or, if you prefer, the infant mortality indicator of the health of the population and the rate of illiteracy. For infant mortality data are available by region, in the years immediately following unification.
We note that the average Italian was 226.2, which means that in 1000 in the first year of life were dying 226, more than one in five; very high average. For comparison, in 2008 the infant mortality rates were higher than those of Afghanistan with 157.43 deaths in the first year of life per 1,000 births and Angola with 184.44, while the Italian rate was 5.72. If we go back to the 60s of the nineteenth century, it is important to note that the infant mortality rates for the region are lower than those of Abruzzi and Molise, Campania and Sardinia, while the highest are in Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Lombardy, it is certainly a figure in contrast with what is commonly said about the economic and social development of the population that does not reveal a particular backwardness of the South in fact, at least from a health point of view, tells us that the most critical situation was elsewhere. After twenty years of unity, although the overall situation improved, however, changed the geographical distribution and in general we see an improvement of the situation in the center and to the north and a stationary state or sometimes deteriorated to the South, except in Puglia and Sicily .
The first census of united gives us some other interesting data, such as the number of the poor in the face of a global figure of 1.40%, the “Neapolitan provinces” have a poverty rate of 1.34% and 1.42% Sicilia ; Lombardy has 1.67%, Piedmont and Liguria 1:00%, the most disadvantaged regions are Romagna (11.2%) and Umbria (14.2%). The important thing, in this figure, it should be calculated on a basis consistent throughout Italy, although the definition of poverty is certainly different from today.
Finally, the steady population growth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from 3,000,000 in 1734 to 6,780,000 at 31/12/1861 show that had already been exceeded cycle, typical of the economy of the previous centuries, so that for each increase