One hundred and fifty years after the Unification, the low economic performance of Southern Italy and its weakness in terms of social fabric remain one of the biggest issue for the country. Several scholars have been attempting to explain the so-called North-South divide and its persistence by taking into account economic factors: i.e., the lack of investments and of infrastructures, the ineffectiveness of public policies in terms of growing of both income and occupation rate. By contrast, this paper aims to focus on the actual causes of public inequalities (i.e. territorial differences in terms of institutional efficiency, and of public services), rather on the causes of private inequalities (i.e. income and wealth gap between Northern and Southern Italy). According to this perspective, the main aim of the paper is to lay out an analytical framework underlying institutional formal and informal features that made Southern Italy fall down into a vicious circle. Consistently, we claim that a peculiar condition of public poverty widespread in Southern Italy has largely produced external tangible and not tangible diseconomies, which hinder economic productive investments, whereby legitimating particularistic exchanges between citizens and political actors. In this regard, it is essential to underline how collective goods and several fundamental public services – such as well-supported school system – are needed in order to enhance social and economic wellbeing. Furthermore, collective goods help establishing strong institutional environments.
Keywords: Italian Mezzogiorno; Social Inequalities; Collective goods; Economic developme.