Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Educational Integration of Second Generation Southern Italian Migrants to the North

Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Educational Integration of Second Generation Southern Italian Migrants to the North

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Internal migration can be defined as the change over time in the distribution of the population within a country. Since the early works on migration (Ravenstein 1885), scholars have treated it as a complex phenomenon involving sociological, demographic, and economic aspects (Etzo 2008). Classical research on social stratification took this kind of geographical mobility into consideration, especially the movements from rural to urban areas and their impact on social mobility (Lipset and Bendix 1959; Blau and Duncan 1967). However, in recent decades the international debate has mostly focused on international migrations, because of their greater visibility and political importance from the point of view of Western scholars. Mass internal migrations still occur in developing countries, but they attract less attention from scholars living in the rich countries of the West.

There are still many good reasons to study internal migrants and their integration into the host society. From a theoretical point of view, internal migrations may help achieve better understanding of the concepts used to study migration in general. Currently, mass geographical movements of people are defined as migrations when they imply a change of residence from one country to another: this may be an instance of the 'methodological nationalism' affecting much contemporary social research (Wimmer and Schiller 2003; King and Skeldon 2010).

As regards empirical research, when internal migrations are studied, migrants and natives are typically found in the same dataset with fully comparable information. This is not the case for international migrants, in particular those born abroad (first generation) (Bonifazi 2008). Something similar can be said in regard to the comparison between movers and stayers: most of the recent work on the occupational and social careers of migrants is unable make a judgement as to whether migration was a good choice because the data does not allow comparison between the outcomes of migrants and of their peers who remain in the home country. While the need to conduct surveys in both origin and destination countries has been acknowledged since the late 1970s (Zachariah et al. 1980), the first ethno-surveys to make this comparison possible were only carried out in the following decades (Massey 1987).

All of these considerations apply in the case of the Italian grande migrazione, the huge internal migration from the south to central and northern Italian regions which took place in the aftermath of the post-WW2 reconstruction, from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s.3 During that period some two million southerners moved to the north, and the majority of them settled there permanently; a population movement comparable to moving a city bigger than Naples from the south to the north in the span of two decades. A different population had to be integrated into northern Italian society, but despite the substantive importance of the question of the long-run integration of southern migrants, which was well analysed and discussed during the 1960s and 1970s, there has been little systematic research on it and the available results are inconsistent (see Panichella 2014, pp.17-45 for a review of the literature on the topic).

This study contributes to filling this gap by studying the integration of the second generation of internal migrants. It asks if being a child of southern migrants is a penalty in school achievement. As highlighted by current research on international migrations, by the second generation school achievement is one of the key indicators of an ethnic group's integration into a given host society, both because of the importance of education per se and because it is one of the main determinants of life opportunities (Portes, Fernandez-Kelly, and Haller 2009; Heath, Rothon, and Kilpi 2008: 212).

This study contributes to the literature in several ways. First, most of the current studies on internal migration focus largely on the social integration of the first generation (see, for instance, Borjas, Bronars, and Trejo 1992; Greenwood 2007), while there is less evidence on the integration of the second generation of internal migrants. …

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