Internal migration networks and mortality in home communities: Evidence from Italy during the Covid-19 pandemic

Authors: Ruben Durante and Michele Valsecchi

European Economic Review, Vol. 140, November, 2021

Do internal migration networks benefit or harm their home communities in case of a communicable disease? Looking at the spread of Covid in Italy and using pre-determined province-to-province migration, excess mortality and mobile phone tracking data, we document that provinces with a greater share of migrants in outbreak areas show greater compliance with self-isolation measures (information mechanism), but also a greater population inflow from outbreak areas (carrier mechanism). For a subset of localities, the net effect on mortality is negative. However, for the average locality, the effect is positive and large, suggesting that the role of migrants as information providers is trumped by their role as virus carriers. The effect is quantitatively important and could be incorporated in epidemiological models forecasting the spread of communicable diseases.