Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

Italian Emigration: A look at the regional differences in two periods of mass migration

Ricciardo Traci Michelle, Università del Salento

Migration studies have developed rapidly as a research field over the past decades. Italian emigration abroad during the post-World War (1946-73) and 21st century (2004-19), precisely during the second and third periods of mass migration, forms a key part of Italy’s recent history. Although much research on has been carried out over the years, the focus of the attention has been on immigration and its effects on the host countries. However, converging and diverging trends in Italian emigration have not received enough attention in literature to date. The aim of this study is to compare the two periods of mass migration, highlighting differences and similarities by analyzing the trends in emigration from the different Italian Regions. The study provides a comprehensive historical overview of the changes in Italian emigration: the background is described making use of secondary literature and data, allowing for an analysis between the different regional origins of the migrants and the emigration trends in the regions, as well as for the formulation of hypotheses regarding the emigrants’ migration motives. This study helps fill the gap in literature with its comparison of the second and third periods of Italian mass emigration. The findings reveal the scale of this emigration, the various regional origins of the emigrants, the differences in the trends in each region, the attitude to emigration in sender societies and also the potential reasons behind the emigrants’ departure. Results provide enough information to affirm that it is mostly the young to emigrate, but there is no solid evidence yet to assert that the majority are also highly skilled or educated. Today emigration is due to the increased movements of people in a globally interconnected labor market, but, contrarily to the second mass migration, it pertains mainly to higher-income Italian regions. This highlights that economic needs are not the only factor that affects the decision of Italians to emigrate


Keywords: Emigration, sending countries, Italian emigrants