This article tries to assess, by resorting to the use of cluster analysis techniques, the relationship between economic growth and social structure at a regional level in western Europe. It is argued that the processes of socio‐economic restructuring and structural change have rendered the traditional factors determining the location of economic activity more mobile. Hence, since regional disparities tend to persist, the connection between growth and the underlying social conditions has become more visible. The empirical results of the analysis show that there is a robust association between economic growth and the local social forces, and that this relationship is not only evident in the so‐called ‘new growth spaces’, as pinpointed by most of the literature on structural change, but in almost any type of region. Moreover, the results reveal that there is no unique social mix associated with low or high growth, and that similar levels of economic growth might be achieved in very different social environments.