Keywords: Inequality; North-South Divide; Work Intensity.
We study the role of regional imbalances in explaining the high household income inequality in Italy. In the first part of the work we use the Survey of Household Income and Wealth (SHIW) to describe the trends in income inequality between and within areas since the early 2000s. We illustrate that the between-area inequality has been relatively stable, while the within-area component increased significantly after the recession and during the recovery. In 2016, the large geographical divide and the higher inequality within the South contributed to almost one fifth of national inequality. In the second part we show that the distribution of employment is key in explaining the regional differences in both average income and its dispersion. By means of simulations based on matching and reweighting, we estimate that national inequality would be reduced by 15% if the distribution of work hours across Southern households were similar to the one in the more developed Centre-North. Regional employment differentials are so important in determining overall inequality that income dispersion would decline substantially even if this increase in employment were associated with a drop in Southern regions' average labour income.