1. Globalisation, Agricultural Markets, and Mass Migration (1876 - 1912)
Explorations in Economic History (2019)

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

[Link to paper]

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.

2. British-French Technology Transfer from the Revolution to Louis Philippe (1791-1844): Evidence from Patent Data
Journal of Economic History (2023)

with Alessandro Nuvolari (Scuola Sup. Sant'Anna, Pisa) and Michelangelo Vasta (Università di Siena)

[Link to paper] [CEPR Discussion Paper 15620]

This paper examines the patterns of technology transfer from Britain to France during the early phases of industrialization; it does so by making use of a dataset comprising all patents granted in France during the period 1791-1844. Exploiting the peculiarities of the French legislation, we construct an array of patent quality indicators and econometrically investigate their determinants. We find that patents filed by British inventors or French inventors personally linked with British ones were of relatively higher quality. Overall, our results show that the French innovation system was effectively capable of attracting and absorbing key technologies from Britain.

3. Irregular Citizens: Internal Migration and Anti-urbanism in Italy (1957-1965)
Italian Review of Economic History (2023)

[Link to paper]

Until February 1961, internal migration in Italy was still regulated by a piece of Fascist legislation that was first enforced in 1939. This law severely limited citizens’ rights to reside anywhere other than their birthplace and created the premise for a paradox: irregular residence in one’s own country. According to my estimates, in 1961 there were up to one million people in this condition all across the peninsula. This paper describes how the abrogation of such law influenced internal migration patterns through newly digitised data from civil registries. I find that this event brought about a substantial, short-lived, spike in population growth rates across provinces with larger cities and industrial centres mostly due to the rapid regularisation of internal migrants already residing there – rather than a dramatic surge of internal migration as a direct consequence of the legal change. These increments were mirrored by an equally sizeable transitory population fall in more peripheral, less-developed, provinces.

4. Male and Female Self-Selection During the Age of Mass Migration: The Case of Portugal, 1885-1930
Accepted at Explorations in Economic History

with Martín Fernández-Sánchez (LISER)

[SSRN Working Paper]

This paper examines the evolution and determinants of migrant self-selection by gender during the age of mass migration. Using newly digitised district-level data on emigration from Portugal, we construct a literacy-based self-selection index and document three stylized facts: (i) average self-selection was positive throughout 1885-1930; (ii) men were more positively self-selected than women during 1885-1915 but similarly thereafter; (iii) aggregate self-selection measures mask substantial variation across districts and time. Our econometric analysis shows that self-selection was negatively associated with both the size of migrant flows and the share of migrants going to Brazil, while emigration to Africa was related to more positive selection. The decreasing importance of flows to Brazil in favor of Europe after 1915 may partly explain the vanishing of differences in self-selection between men and women.

Working papers

1. International Migration Responses to the 1908 Messina-Reggio Calabria Earthquake

with Yannay Spitzer (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) and Ariell Zimran (Vanderbilt University) [Accepted at the Journal of Economic History]

[CEPR Discussion Paper 15008] [NBER Discussion Paper 27506]

The Messina-Reggio Calabria Earthquake (1908), arguably the most devastating natural disaster in modern western history, occurred when overseas mass migration from Southern Italy was at its peak. We use this unique event to study the effects of a natural disaster on international migration within an environment in which migration is a readily available option. Using locality level data on damage and annual emigration, we find that despite the massive destruction, on average there was no impact on emigration from affected communes. Behind this zero average there was heterogeneity, with greater positive effect in districts in which day laborers comprised a larger share of the agricultural labor force; this suggests that attachment to the land was an impediment to reacting to the disaster by migration. Yet overall, relative to the effects of ordinary temporal shocks, this momentous event left a nondescript imprint on migration patterns, possibly due to local opportunities that were created by the earthquake and offset its outward push force.

Work in Progress

1. Innovation and Early Industrialisation in France, 1791-1844: A New Geographical Perspective from Patent Data

with Alessandro Nuvolari (Scuola Sup. Sant'Anna, Pisa) and Michelangelo Vasta (Università di Siena)