Graduate Mobility and Brain Gaining Capacity. an Analysis of in- and out-Migration of Talents Among Italian Regions

Roberto Impicciatore, University of Bologna
Francesca Tosi, University of Bologna
Rosella Rettaroli, University of Bologna

Investigating how qualified human capital is spatially redistributed within a country is essential to understand which areas benefit from its concentration in terms of enhanced productivity and potential for growth. Regions attracting student mobility from across the country may significantly benefit from the arrival of young individuals enrolling in local universities, especially since interregional migration is a skill-selective process. Nevertheless, an actual brain gain can only occur if regions prove to be able to retain the best and brightest after their graduation. The aim of this paper is to evaluate what is the capacity of Italian regions to retain the most talented university graduates in local labour markets. We focus on the interaction between individual skills and the probability to which graduates choose different mobility outcomes four years after graduation, distinguishing between university stayers (who settle in the same region of college attendance), return migrants (who go back to their region of origin), repeat migrants (who move further on to a third destination region), late migrants (who enrol in a local university and then move on to a different region to enter full-employment), and non-migrants. To this aim, we use the Istat database on University graduates’ vocational integration 2011 and control for the role of family background.

i-         Rationaleand background

The tradition ofexcellence of some of ItalyÕs northern universities has undoubtedly played arole, over the past decades, in attracting students from across the country.Many other ÔpullÕ factors, however, are to be enumerated amongst the causes ofinterregional student mobility, like greater employment opportunities, higherwages per capita and the institutional quality of receiving areas.

Recent findings showthat in Italy student mobility follows in worker mobility footsteps, suggestingthat Ð irrespective of universitiesÕ reputation Ð the choice of the universitylocation may represent for young people a farsighted move toward a morepromising and rewarding future in the labour market (Dotti et al., 2013).Hence, it is not surprising that students who migrate for study purposes areunlikely to go back home after they graduate elsewhere (Ciriaci, 2013), andthat a non-negligible proportion of the most dynamic youth gets permanentlydrained by destination regions.

The relevance of such aconcern grows even further when classical economic theory assumptions about thepositive self-selection of migrants in terms of skills and motivation are takeninto consideration (Schwartz, 1976). Such a matter is especially important inthe case of the Italian economy, whose history is marked by a persistentSouth-North dualism and where social and economic inequalities are strictlytied to territories and their specificities (Graziani, 1978).

Despite its relevanceand potential implications in terms of economic policy, that is anunderinvestigated issue. Existing literature focuses mainly on the attractionof southern students, or the socio-demographic characteristics of southerngraduates relocating in the Centre-North (Capuano 2012, Nifo & Vecchione,2013). However, much less has been said about the capacity of local economiesto take advantage of the interregional exchange of talents, which depends onregionsÕ ability to retain the brightest graduates in their territory aftertheir entrance in the labour market.

Focusing onpost-graduate mobility of young people, the aim of the paper is to evaluate,within the Italian context, the ability of regions to retain graduates in locallabour markets by estimating the probability that graduates will remain in theregion where college was attended four years after graduation.


ii-       Data and methods

 Using the Istatdatabase on University graduatesÕ vocational integration 2011, we model thepropensity to different mobility outcomes conditioned on individual skillsthrough multinomial logistic regressions. A set of control variables, includingpersonal characteristics and parental background, is also included in themodel. The sample of roughly 45,900 graduates includes Ð but is not limited to Ðstudents who have completed a first migration to a different region than thatof origin in order to enrol in university.

Following the existingliterature (e.g., DaVanzo, 1976, 1983; Faggian et al., 2006), we categorizegraduate mobility according to five possible sequential moves:

¤  Repeatmigrant, who experienced both ante lauream and post laureammobility, but the regions of origin and current domicile do not coincide;

¤  Returnmigrant, who experienced both ante lauream and post laureammobility, but the regions of origin and current domicile coincide;

¤  Universitystayer, who experienced ante lauream mobility only;

¤  Late migrant,who experienced post lauream mobility only;

¤  Non-migrant, whoexperienced no mobility at all.


iii-    Results

Estimates from the model(Table 1) show that for every mobility category but one (i.e., returnmigrant) the most talented are also more likely than the least skilled toundertake interregional mobility: for university stayers, theprobability is 77% higher; for repeat migrants, the probability is 61%higher; for late migrants, it is 15% higher. For return migrants,on the other hand, the probability of returning home amongst the most talentedis 25% lower than amongst the least skilled, meaning that those who are likelyto return home after graduation are probably not the most experienced andknowledgeable.


Table 1 Multinomial logit modelestimates (Relative Risk Ratios, Non-migrant = reference category)


Average Marginal Effects(AMEs) computed starting from the model allow to measure what is the effect ofany explanatory variables of interest on the probability of realizing all fivemobility outcomes (Fig.1). Regarding the region of graduation, AMEs show that universitystayers mostly remain in centre-northern regions after graduation, and thatthose who stay are also significantly and positively selected in terms oftalent. Conversely, return migrants who leave northern regions to goback home are most likely the least skilled. Concerning graduatesÕ area oforigin, AMEs show that low-skilled return migrants mainly come from theSouth. Furthermore, the most talented graduates among university stayersand repeat migrants are likely southerners as well.

Our findings confirm thatsouthern highly-skilled graduates tend to not go back home, while northernregions seem to absorb most part of the countryÕs talented youth.


Fig.1 AMEs: region of graduation and areaof origin vs. skill profile for University stayers and Returnmigrants




Presented in Session 1147: Economics, Human Capital, and Labour Markets