Are we in the same boat? The legacy of historical emigration on attitudes towards immigrants

51 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2019 Last revised: 15 Nov 2021

See all articles by Erminia Florio

Erminia Florio

University of Rome Tor Vergata; HEC Montréal

Date Written: June 16, 2021


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.

Keywords: Italian Emigration; Attitudes towards Immigration; Age of Mass Migration

JEL Classification: J15; N32; N34; Z1

Suggested Citation

Florio, Erminia, Are we in the same boat? The legacy of historical emigration on attitudes towards immigrants (June 16, 2021). CEIS Working Paper No. 478, Available at SSRN: or

Erminia Florio (Contact Author)

University of Rome Tor Vergata ( email )

Via di Tor Vergata
Rome, Lazio 00133

HEC Montréal ( email )

3000 Chemin de la Cote-Sainte-Catherine
Montréal, CA Québec H3T 2A7

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