Diffusion, Networks and Cycles: US-bound Italian migration (1892-1912)

This paper investigates the municipal dimension of Italian mass migration to the United States at the turn of the 20th century (1892 - 1912). The analysis revolves around Ellis Island administrative records and comprises the universe of Italian immigrants entering the United States through the port of New York - a rough total of 3.5 million observations. The contribution is threefold: it disaggregates US-bound out-migration from Italy in its municipal dimension; it sheds light on the concept of ex-ante migration networks, evidencing their role within migration strategies; it engages with the emerging strand of literature on cyclical migration flows, highlighting their relevance in the past. As a whole, the paper further characterizes the age of mass migration as a globalized era and documents a relevant degree of mobility that contrast with traditional accounts of transoceanic migrations.

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Globalisation, agricultural markets, and mass migration (1876 - 1912)

with Rowena Gray (UC, Merced) and Gaia Narciso (TCD)

Despite the significant attention paid to the current consequences of globalization for migration behavior, there are few historical accounts of the effect of commodity market integration at the micro level. We set our paper within the context of the first globalization era, when migration flows were largely unregulated, and highlight how exogenous shocks in agricultural commodity prices influenced international migration flows from Italian provinces between 1881 and 1912. To do this, we construct an index of global price exposure based on the initial provincial agricultural production structures. Our analysis quantifies the contribution of globalization-induced agricultural price shocks to migration decisions, alongside more traditional explanatory factors such as migrant networks and landholding systems. We find evidence that agricultural price shocks are positively related to the propensity to migrate, as migration tended to increase in proportion with agricultural commodity prices. This result suggests that liquidity constraints were binding until agricultural incomes reached a certain threshold. These findings can inform our understanding of present-day migration responses in developing countries in the face of even more rapid globalization but higher barriers to legal migration.

You can find this paper here. It's a CREAM working paper.

[R&R, Explorations in Economic History]



Post-Disaster Migration: Evidence from the 1908 Messina and Reggio Calabria Earthquake

with Yannay Spitzer (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) and Ariell Zimran (Vanderbilt University)

This paper revolves around a major historical disaster that took place in Southern Italy during the age of mass migration: the earthquake that shook Messina and Reggio Calabria on December 28th 1908. Having claimed as many as 100 thousand lives and destroyed entire cities, this event is often regarded as the most devastating natural disaster in recent European history. We evaluate the municipality-level effect of the earthquake on total and US-bound out-migration, based on the complete Ellis Island administrative records and official Italian statistics. We find that the earthquake had a differential effect in Calabria and Sicily, only determining a transitory, statistically significant, decline of out-migration rates in the former.

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