Guided by the growing emphasis on the importance of economic regions rather than nations, we utilize the Northeast of Brazil and the Northeast of Thailand as case studies to consider the fruitfulness of a subnational approach to comparative research. A major goal of this inquiry is to provide an overview of the complex interactions between economic, educational, demographic and environmental factors embedded in critically important political and cultural contexts. Our thesis is that subnational comparisons between countries are often more meaningful than aggregate, cross-national ones. The intent of this inquiry, therefore, is not to equate Thailand and Brazil, but rather to highlight the importance of subnational comparisons. The overall economic and educational evidence we present reveals the Northeast regions of both Brazil and Thailand to be substantially disadvantaged. Without a subnational comparison, however, we propose that the overall economic performance of each country cannot accurately be determined. Gross generalizations and conclusions based on measures of central tendencies ignore important subnational differences and disparities in development within a country.