International Migration Responses to Natural Disasters: Evidence from Modern Europe's Deadliest Earthquake

72 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2020 Last revised: 16 Aug 2020

See all articles by Yannay Spitzer

Yannay Spitzer

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Gaspare Tortorici

Heidelberg University - Alfred Weber Institute for Economics

Ariell Zimran

Vanderbilt University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2020

Abstract

The Messina-Reggio Calabria Earthquake (1908) was the deadliest earthquake and arguably the most devastating natural disaster in modern European history. It occurred when overseas mass emigration from southern Italy was at its peak and international borders were open, making emigration a widespread phenomenon and a readily available option for disaster relief. We use this singular event and its unique and important context to study the effects of natural disasters on international migration. Using commune-level data on damage and annual emigration, we find that, despite massive destruction, there is no

evidence that the earthquake had, on average, a large impact on emigration or its composition. There were, however, heterogeneous and offsetting responses to the shock, with a more positive effect on emigration in districts where agricultural day laborers comprised a larger share of the labor force, suggesting

that attachment to the land was an impediment to reacting to the disaster through migration. Nonetheless, relative to the effects of ordinary shocks, such as a recession in the destination, this momentous event had a small impact on emigration rates. These findings contribute to literatures on climate- and disaster-driven migration and on the Age of Mass Migration.

Keywords: Age of Mass Migration, Italy, migration, Natural Disasters, Refugees, US Immigration

JEL Classification: F22, J61, N3, O15, Q54

Suggested Citation

Spitzer, Yannay and Tortorici, Gaspare and Zimran, Ariell, International Migration Responses to Natural Disasters: Evidence from Modern Europe's Deadliest Earthquake (July 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP15008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3650123

Yannay Spitzer (Contact Author)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel

Gaspare Tortorici

Heidelberg University - Alfred Weber Institute for Economics ( email )

Grabengasse 14
Heidelberg, D-69117
Germany

Ariell Zimran

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

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