Globalisation, agricultural markets, and mass migration (1876 - 1912), Explorations in Economic History, 74 (2019)

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.

Working papers and Work in Progress

- International Migration Responses to the 1908 Messina-Reggio Calabria Earthquake [CEPR Discussion Paper 15008] [NBER Discussion Paper 27506]

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

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.

- Diffusion, Networks and Cycles: US-bound Italian migration (1892-1924) [PDF AVAILABLE ON REQUEST]

This paper descriptively investigates the municipal dimension of Italian mass migration to the United States at the turn of the 20th century (1892 - 1924). 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 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.

- Iventing the French Industrial Revolution: Evidence from Patent Quality (1791-1843) [PRESENTATION SLIDES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST]

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