DP14604 Internal Borders and Population Geography in the Unification of Italy

Author(s): Brian A'Hearn, Valeria Rueda
Publication Date: April 2020
Date Revised: May 2020
Keyword(s): 19th century, Border effects, economic history, economic integration, Italy, Political Unification, spatial inequality
JEL(s): J6, N33, N93, R12, R23
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14604

We examine the economic impact of Italian unification from a micro-geographical perspective, asking whether the abolition of internal borders caused a redistribution of economic activity towards the former border zones, which now enjoyed improved market access. We construct a new geocoded dataset of municipal (comune) populations from the pre-unification period through to 1871. Using a difference-in-differences approach and controlling for a variety of geographic correlates including elevation and distances to ports, railway lines, and large cities, we find robust evidence of a relative acceleration in population growth - our proxy for economic activity - in comuni near the former internal borders, consistent with our market access hypothesis.