Immigration policy and birth weight: positive externalities in Italian law
A decade ago, the political party of the Italian center-right voted a law restricting immigration. It emphasized severity in granting permits to stay and limited illegal immigration. However, the law became effective in early 2005, when the Italian parliament approved the decree for its application. Only one article of this law, granting amnesty for illegal immigrant workers, was immediately effective, and gave irregular immigrants the opportunity to regularize their status. As a result, 650,000 immigrants were granted the status of foreign nationals in Italy. In this paper, we examine whether the increase in the prevalence of "regular immigrants" has led to an improvement in health outcomes of babies born to migrant women, measured in terms of birth weight. Two hitherto unexploited birth sample surveys published by Italian Institute of Statistics in 2002 and 2005 were used for this study. The surveys, concern interviews with 100,000 mothers who delivered a child between July 2000 and June 2001 in the first survey and in 2003 in the second survey. Our estimates show that regular immigration reduced the probability of low birth weight, indicating that economic benefits in place at birth may be strengthened by increased future productivity.
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