Mastercard’s Inclusive Growth Score shows importance of levelling up as UK’s north – south gap widens

August 16, 2021
  • The newly launched Mastercard Inclusive Growth Score uses key metrics based on a compilation of data sources to provide a social and economic profile of UK communities.
  • The score adds fresh insights into the challenges of levelling up, providing vital insight for local authorities and other public bodies to take positive, targeted action to drive social and economic improvements.
  • Average social and economic score for the north has decreased since 2018, while the score for the south has increased.

Today, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth launches the UK Inclusive Growth Score, which uses 21 different metrics from three pillars - place, economy, and community - to showcase the social and economic profile of a postcode sector and the potential it may hold.

The platform includes scores for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, and provides local planners, policymakers, investors, and community leaders with a clear view of the social and economic indicators that are key to assessing inclusive growth.

The insights – which are based on publicly available sources such as ONS and HM Land Registry, as well as anonymised and aggregated activity within the Mastercard network - reveals that by region, the south has consistently outperformed northern regions since 2018, and that the gap is widening; reinforcing the importance of targeted levelling up.

The data analysis shows that so far in 2021 – out of a score of 100 – the south of the UK currently has an average Inclusive Growth Score of 54, compared to 48 in the north and 51 in the Midlands. This disparity between scores is evidence of inequality in social and economic prosperity between the regions and highlights the need to rebalance the country.

From 2018 to 2021 the south has seen a marginal improvement in score (up from 53 in 2018), while the north’s score slightly decreased (down from 49 in 2018). The increase in the south was largely driven by increases in household income, a decline in the rate of women claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance, and an increase in the proportion of minority workers employed in the region. The decline in the north has primarily been driven by decreases in household turnover, travel time to work and percentage of businesses that are small businesses.

This trend is especially concerning when considered alongside the fact that several recent reports have suggested the north was harder hit by the pandemic than the rest of England. However, the government has recently reiterated its commitment to levelling up the country, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning in a recent speech that Britain is firing on only ‘one cylinder’ without change.

Payal Dalal, Senior Vice President, Social Impact, International Markets at the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, comments: “At Mastercard, we want to use our expertise, data analytics, technology and partnerships to achieve actionable insights and support countries around the world to drive inclusive growth – something that is even more important as we come out of the pandemic.” 

Kelly Devine, President, UK & Ireland at Mastercard comments: “We are committed to supporting the government’s levelling up agenda and playing our part in driving sustainable, inclusive growth across the country. The Inclusive Growth Score is designed to empower the UK’s local authorities, communities, and businesses with the insights they need to take positive action and, in turn, level up the UK economy.”

While on average, current 2021 scores for southern areas exceed those in northern regions, there were some cities in the north of England that performed better than average. Leeds, for example, scored 55 in 2021, driven by increases in minority worker representation and overall community wellbeing (defined by Co-Op’s Community Wellbeing Index, a combination of social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political conditions identified by individuals and their communities as essential for them to flourish). Similarly, Manchester scored 53 in 2021 despite the economic challenges presented by the pandemic – this was due to increases in education accessibility and access to healthcare.

There are also some southern cities where the score is lagging behind the regional average, including Bath which scored 48, and Canterbury and Exeter which each scored 45. In both Bath and Canterbury, the decline was due to decreases in public green space and accessibility of education, and in Exeter minority worker representation and small business representation both fell.

The Inclusive Growth Score helps policymakers and community leaders uncover and prioritise areas where more support is needed to nurture inclusive economic and social growth. The range of indicators provide a comprehensive view of conditions in an area and help local policy makers make decisions that meet the specific needs of communities and residents through community projects, affordable housing, and investment in local businesses.

Councillor Andrew Western GMCA Lead for Digital, Work, Skills and Apprenticeships said: “In Greater Manchester we know social and economic inequalities are a significant barrier in helping us achieve our ambition that our city-region become one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and grow old. The Mastercard Inclusive Growth Score is an important tool in aiding our understanding of what support is needed locally to nurture inclusive, economic, and social growth, helping us to drive improvements to make things better for our people across Greater Manchester. That’s why we are pleased to be working with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, providing local evidence and insight, and working to get digital inclusion recognised as an indicator of inclusive growth.”

Emma Stone, Director of Evidence and Engagement, Good Things Foundation, comments: “As the UK's leading digital inclusion charity, we know that digital exclusion deepens existing inequalities across the UK - locking people out of the benefits of digital; holding back communities. We urgently need better data - locally and nationally - to support targeted action to fix the digital divide. We're delighted that Mastercard's Inclusive Growth Score recognises the importance of digital inclusion to delivering inclusive growth in the UK and globally.”

The Inclusive Growth Score is an ongoing measurement that is updated annually. For more information, visit


Methodology (2018 – 2021 to-date):

The Inclusive Growth Score is composed of three pillars: Place, Economy, and Community. Pillars are composed of Inclusion (level of access) and Growth (level of change) metrics. The measures of Inclusion are static figures speaking to the accessibility of resources or community assets, whilst measures of Growth provide detailed views into how communities are changing over time.

The Inclusive Growth Score, pillars, and underlying metrics are transformed into percentile ranks (0 100) relative to a user selected base. To calculate the ranks, all postcode sectors are rank ordered according to the metric value. Scores are calculated by taking the postcode sector’s relative position, divided by the total number of postcode sectors in the benchmark, and multiplied by 100.

For full methodology, visit

Notes to editors:

COVID-19 and the Northern Powerhouse

Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

Media Contacts

Suman Hughes, Mastercard

About Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. The Center leverages the company’s core assets and competencies, including data insights, expertise and technology, while administering the philanthropic Mastercard Impact Fund, to produce independent research, scale global programs and empower a community of thinkers, leaders and doers on the front lines of inclusive growth. For more information and to receive its latest insights, follow the Center on Twitter, @CNTR4growth, LinkedIn and subscribe to its newsletter.

About Mastercard (UK)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.