Migration and well-being: did internal migration from southern to northern Italy in the mid-twentieth century affect height convergence?
Donatella Lanari, Università di Perugia
Odoardo Bussini, Università di Perugia
Assessing human well-being through anthropometric measures, particularly height, is well documented in the literature. However the impact of internal migration on the biological welfare has not been yet documented, mainly for lack of detailed data. The phenomenon of a stature convergence across Italian regions during the second half of the twentieth century has been evidenced by several studies. Increases in stature were indeed higher in southern areas, which were initially characterized by height lower than the national average. However, this trend is also affected by the massive migratory flow of people from southern to northern Italy in the 1950s-60s, which greatly slowed the rate of increase in mean height in the receiving regions, since immigrants were on average shorter than the local residents. Based on conscripts' micro-data (1951 and 1980 cohorts), we aim to estimate the contribution of South-North migrations on over-estimation of the height convergence of southern and island areas. We exploit the dataset which includes a representative sample of 111,834 Italian conscripts born in 1951 and 162,295 born in 1980. Our research question is the following: given the size of migration flows from South to North of Italy and the variety of ethnic profiles, what is the contribution of internal migration, operating through decreased rates of height growth, in explaining convergence stature in Italy? We provide estimates of the impact of internal migration during the economic boom in term of speed of stature convergence combining the information concerning the places of residence and municipality where the military conscript was born. Results indicate that migrations may explain about 20-25 percent of the high speed of convergence of stature across areas of Italy in the 1950s and 1960s, whereas lack of identification of migration flows yields an over-estimation of the well-being changes in people living in the South of Italy.