Sessione 10 Sottosessione 1

Regularization of Immigrants in Italy and the Effects on Fertility

(L. Pieroni, D. Lanari e L. Salmasi)


Migration restrictions often produce a pool of unauthorized immigrants. In Italy, an important legislation was approved in July 2002 (Law 189/2002, i.e., Bossi-Fini Law) at aiming to better manage migratory flows and to make more effective prevention of illegal immigration. However, since the share of illegal immigrants in 2002 reached $1/3$ of the total foreign population, this Law also included an amnesty. It allowed to irregular immigrants working in domestic service and as careers to be regularized, a situation extended two months later also to workers in industry.

As largely discussed in Salmasi and Pieroni (2015), a short-term effect of this law was that 705,000 irregular immigrants were made eligible for regularization and, of these, 650,000 were approved. These individuals were included in the official labor market, removing the increasing number of work-site roundups force businesses to fire suspected illegal immigrants on the pay roll which, in turn, increases the opportunity cost of a socio-economic integration and fostered fertility choices.

Our working hypothesis is that this Italian Law on immigration reduced immigrants’ socio-economic vulnerability and fostered fertility choices. Linked with the health outcomes of pregnant mothers, the regularization process was also assumed to promote better use of prenatal care services by immigrant mothers.

The contribution of this paper lies in the datasets and the opportunities it offers for econometric identification of immigration law effects. We use data from the Birth Sample Surveys (BSS) conducted by ISTAT in 2002 and 2005, concerning interviews with 100,000 mothers between July 2000 and June 2001 in the first survey (wave1) and in 2003, in the second survey (wave2). The years in which the surveys were conducted are precisely those before and after the immigration law came into force and, thanks to this feature, we can adopt a quasi-experimental approach to estimate the effect of regularization on the fertility rate.

Although we cannot distinguish between eligible and non-eligible immigrants, we propose a robustness analysis to test whether the estimated effect varies when we consider various groups of babies born to mothers with different employment status. As Art. 33 of Law 189/2002 covers regularization linked with employment status and duration, we suspect that estimates may differ significantly, according to the heterogeneous employment status of mothers.

Thus, we estimated the effect of regularization on the probability of a new baby in the complete sample and in subgroups of newborns in which mothers had a job. Our results are in line with the expectation that leaving the status of illegal migrant had significant increases in the fertility rate, when the mother was employed (+5 percentage points). In contrast, this result became not significant when we estimated the effects in the complete sample of mothers irrespective whether the control group was Italian mothers or mothers with acquired Italian nationality.