Diversity, networks, and the economic success of migrants: evidence from the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes (1932-41)

Lun, 14/11/2022 - 12:45 / 13:30

403, Viale Romania

Speaker: Fabio Mariani , UCLouvain


This paper sheds light on the determinants of the economic success of migrants, focusing in particular on the role of diversity and common-origin networks - in a rural economy. To do this, we take advantage of a particular episode of Italian history. Between 1931 and 1940, the fascist regime settled about 3800 families in the Pontine Marshes, which had been the object of a vast reclamation project in the previous years. The 3000 available plots of land were quasi-randomly assigned to settlers, who came from different regions and started working on a sharecropping agreement.  Eventually, in 1941, settlers were given the choice to redeem their land or opt for a rental contract. We interpret the purchase of land as an indicator of economic success and investigate whether it can be explained by the proximity to other families coming from the same place and/or sharing the same characteristics. We find a positive effect of common-origin neighbours on the purchase of land, while diversity appears to have a non-monotonic effect - which tends to become positive for higher levels of land productivity.