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Human Capital Accumulation and Migration in a Peripheral EU Region: the Case of Basilicata


  • Nicola D. Coniglio


  • Francesco Prota



The importance of human capital as a key source of value added, innovation and economic growth is widely acknowledged by both economists and policy-makers. Local governments can directly affect individuals’ decision making by subsidising human capital formation. The ability of a regional system to generate human capital is crucial but it is not a sufficient condition leading to economic success. In this work we emphasise the importance of maintaining and attracting high-skilled individuals, and the challenge that migration flows pose on policymaking aimed at fostering human capital accumulation. Human capital does not always benefits the region where it was funded and the scope for the policy might vanish if the human capital formed locally is lost through migration, as emphasised by the “brain drain” literature. When agglomeration forces are at work, human capital migrates from where it is scarce to where it is abundant, rather than vice versa (Lucas 1988). This can result in migration widening the regional wage and income gap and lowering the standard of living in the peripheral location. Poor regions lose through migration their most valuable residents, the main source of innovation and productivity in a modern economy. This phenomenon contributes in explaining the persistent nature of regional economic imbalances. These consideration are highlighted through the analysis of a case study, the migration decision of a sample of highly educated and skilled individuals residing in a small peripheral Mezzogiorno region (Basilicata) which have benefited from a locally funded human capital investment policy. The regional policymakers, in recognition of the importance of human capital as a key ingredient for regional growth, have given generous subsidies since the beginning of the 90s to young graduates who wanted to attend a post-graduate course outside or inside the region. More than a thousand individuals have benefited from the policy in the last decade, and the target for the period 2000-2006 is to subsidise an additional two thousand individuals. A dataset was generated through a survey questionnaire which aims at directly asking people about their decision whether or not to move and the main factors influencing their decision. For each individual, we have collected data on background, experience and outcome of higher education, opinion on the quality of the course attended, job-search strategy after the course, and space-time career details from the first employment to the current employment status. The policy intervention under scrutiny and in particular the biased nature of the sample (highly skilled and educated individuals) makes the analysis a natural experiment for assessing the ability of the regional system in a peripheral EU region not only to generate human capital but also to maintain it. The focus of the paper is on the micro level migratory behaviour. In particular, we want to shed light on the following questions: (1) Who are the migrants; (2) What are the main factors influencing migration; (3) What is the resulting “geography” of the human capital generated? Is the human capital attracted toward core regions?

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola D. Coniglio & Francesco Prota, 2003. "Human Capital Accumulation and Migration in a Peripheral EU Region: the Case of Basilicata," ERSA conference papers ersa03p157, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa03p157

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    Cited by:

    1. Viktor Venhorst & Jouke Van Dijk & Leo Van Wissen, 2011. "An Analysis of Trends in Spatial Mobility of Dutch Graduates," Spatial Economic Analysis, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 57-82.
    2. Gabrielle Demange & Robert Fenge, 2010. "Competition in the quality of higher education: the impact of students' mobility," Working Papers halshs-00564912, HAL.
    3. Maud M. Hensen & M. Robert De Vries & Frank Cörvers, 2009. "The role of geographic mobility in reducing education‐job mismatches in the Netherlands," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(3), pages 667-682, August.
    4. Nifo, Annamaria & Pagnotta, Stefano & Scalera, Domenico, 2011. "The best and brightest. Selezione positiva e brain drain nelle migrazioni interne italiane
      [The best and brightest. Positive selection and brain drain in Italian internal migrations]
      ," MPRA Paper 34506, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Fouarge, Didier & Özer, Merve Nezihe & Seegers, Philipp, 2018. "Personality traits, migration intentions, and cultural distance," Research Memorandum 028, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    6. Gabrielle Demange & Robert Fenge, 2010. "Competition in the quality of higher education: the impact of students' mobility," PSE Working Papers halshs-00564912, HAL.
    7. Riccardo Crescenzi & Luisa Gagliardi & Enrico Orru', 2016. "Learning mobility grants and skill (mis)matching in the labour market: The case of the ‘Master and Back’ Programme," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 95(4), pages 693-707, November.
    8. Riccardo Crescenzi & Nancy Holman & Enrico Orru’, 2017. "Why do they return? Beyond the economic drivers of graduate return migration," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 59(3), pages 603-627, November.
    9. Jens Südekum, 2005. "The Pitfalls of Regional Education Policy," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 61(3), pages 327-352, November.
    10. Herbst, Mikolaj & Rok, Jakub, 2013. "Mobility of human capital and its effect on regional economic development. Review of theory and empirical literature," MPRA Paper 45755, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. repec:oup:cesifo:v:54:y:2008:i:2:p:248-276. is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Gabrielle Demange & Robert Fenge & Silke Uebelmesser, 2008. "The Provision of Higher Education in a Global World—Analysis and Policy Implications," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 54(2), pages 248-276.
    13. Eveline S. Van Leeuwen, 2010. "The effects of future retail developments on the local economy: Combining micro and macro approaches," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 89(4), pages 691-710, November.
    14. repec:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2019:i:18:p:4935-:d:265792 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Alexander Haupt & Silke Uebelmesser, 2014. "Labour Market Integration, Human Capital Formation, and Mobility," Jena Economic Research Papers 2014-020, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    16. Ye Liu & Jianfa Shen, 2014. "Spatial patterns and determinants of skilled internal migration in China, 2000–2005," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 93(4), pages 749-771, November.
    17. Viktor Venhorst & Jouke Van Dijk & Leo Van Wissen, 2010. "Do The Best Graduates Leave The Peripheral Areas Of The Netherlands?," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 101(5), pages 521-537, December.
    18. Kidd, Michael P. & O'Leary, Nigel & Sloane, Peter, 2017. "The impact of mobility on early career earnings: A quantile regression approach for UK graduates," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 90-102.
    19. Carlos Villalobos Barría, 2012. "Internal Migration and its Impact on Reducing Inter-communal Disparities in Chile," Ibero America Institute for Econ. Research (IAI) Discussion Papers 220, Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research.

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