International Migration, Institutional Quality and Inequality: Theory and Evidence

Nicolò Cavalli, Nuffield College and University of Oxford

The role of spatial inequality as a determinant of migration has been widely investigated in the literature. The general consensus posits that dierences in income means between countries or between regions (cities) within countries drive migration propensities and destination choices. Fewer works have dealt with the role of inequality at home as a factor in the decision to migrate. Building on previous literature, I provide a theoretical framework to investigate this channel and test its insights using an original dataset on Italian municipalities, containing tax data from 8.101 comuni from 2001 to 2015. I compute Gini coecients and mean income levels, and complement this information with demographic variables extracted from civil registries to generate conservative estimates of foreign emigration. I nd that, in the analysed timespan, 1,153,873 Italian residents migrated from Italy to a foreign country. Gini coefficients have a positive impact on the probability to observe international emigration. This effect seems to be larger during crisis years. I also use information on the quality of institutions (frequency of corruption convictions at the regional level) and interact them with inequality measures, nding a positive reinforcement of inequality and corruption in generating the propensity to migrate at the municipal level. I claim that it is relevant to think about how inequality can interact with institutional quality in generating decisions to migrate, especially in models where the expected income abroad is unknown, and thus cannot fully inform migration choices. In the next steps, I aim at testing this framework in a wider context to study the changing role of inequality and institutional quality in recent and less recent waves of international migration.

Presented in Session 1078: International Migration and Migrant Populations