Troubling interpretations

Statistical comparisons are often misinterpreted in the Slovak media. For example, when the issue comes up, the media repeat the claim that the average income in Bratislava is the second highest of all the capitals of the newer European Union members. They quote, correctly, Eurostat data as the source. The apparent ranking, though, is often merely a byproduct of how each country reports its data to Eurostat.

European wealth

The purchasing power of per-capita GDP relative to Slovakia:

euwealth150

Green - wealthiest
Yellow - above SK
White - Slovakia, Portugal, Greece (equal GDP/PPP)
Red - below SK
Blue - poorest
(Eurostat for 2012.)

Misinterpreted Bratislava

Slovakia, its former federal partner the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany report the metropolitan statistical areas of their capitals as single units to Eurostat. Other Central European countries include their capitals in the data from much larger statistical units.

That puts Bratislava close to the top as a statistical unit, which is commonly misinterpreted in Slovak sources as an indication of a higher purchasing power than in some other capitals.

Such ranking often compares apples to apple trees – Bratislava to the whole regions of Central Hungary or Central Poland, for instance, not to Budapest and Warsaw. Because income in a metropolitan area is higher than in a farming area, the average for just Bratislava inevitably ends up ahead of the average for, say, Central Hungary that includes Budapest.

Ease of doing business

easeofbusiness150

Green - top; yellow - 2nd tier; red - 3rd tier; brown - 4th tier.

Business Alliance of Slovakia, 2011.

Regional wealth

Q: What is the regional distribution of income in Slovakia?

In general, wealth in Central Europe drops along the line from west to east. It is the same in Poland and Hungary whose regions parallel to Central and East Slovakia are somewhat poorer than their Slovak neighbors, but still show the west-to-east decrease. It is also the overall pattern across Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. The gradient is not confined to Central Europe. The countries to the east and south-east, in turn, have lower purchasing power than Central Europe.

2013pppsk350

Relative regional per-capita purchasing power, 2013 (darker = higher, lighter = lower).
Source: GfK - GeoMarketing.

rmdens350

The lowest per-capita purchasing power is in the counties with the highest percentage of the Roma living in shantytowns (above).

unmp350

The low per-capita purchasing power also coincides with the highest-unemployment counties (above, 2013), reflecting the higher unemployment levels among the Roma and indicating that the average incomes of the employed in those areas are not quite as much lower as the overall averages might appear to imply.

East Slovak comforts

Pockets of industry alter the local situation, and some attributes commonly associated with wealth may defy the picture painted by the average per-capita purchasing power in a region.

According to the 2001 census, for instance, people in some eastern counties had the largest homes in Slovakia, 720-750 sq. ft. (counties of Trebišov, Vranov, Sobrance) as opposed to the Slovak average of 600 sq. ft. They also had the highest car ownership per household (counties of Sobrance, Michalovce, Svidník). Family houses in farming communities tend to be larger inside than urban condominiums, and income earned abroad and sent back home is not reported in the statistics.