Are We in The Same Boat? The Legacy of Historical Emigration on Attitudes towards Immigrants

Florio Erminia
CEIS Research Paper
I analyze the effect of historical emigration on current attitudes towards immigration in central and southern Italy. To do so, I collect data on Italian emigrants by municipality of last residence from the Ellis Island archives in the period 1892-1924. I estimate, then, the causal effect of emigration on a series of outcomes used to measure attitudes towards immigrants through an IV strategy, by exploiting exogenous variation in proximity to departure port to the U.S. during years 1892-1924. I find that emigration has a negative and significant long-run effect on attitudes towards immigration. In particular, higher historical emigration reduces the propensity to open refugees reception centers, social expenditure, volunteers in the non-profit organizations and significantly decreases political support for more inclusive parties. These results are consistent with an increase in conservatism and an inter-generational transmission of social norms from migrants to their heirs.

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Number: 478
Keywords: Italian Emigration; Attitudes towards Immigration; Age of Mass Migration.
JEL codes: J15,N32,N34,Z1
Volume: 17
Issue: 10
Date: Monday, December 16, 2019
Revision Date: Friday, November 12, 2021