The Effect of Immigration on Occupational Injuries: Evidence from Administrative Data*
Alacevich C., Nicodemo C.
The task specialization literature suggests that migrant workers concentrate on physically intensive occupations, pushing natives towards less-risky jobs. What is the effect of immigration on the severity of work-related injuries? By matching administrative data on work-related injuries and residence registries in Italy, this paper shows that migrant inflows lead to a reduction of physical impairment and injury-related paid sick leave for native workers, independently from occupation and sector transitions. The effect is largest in manufacturing and construction and among the eldest employees. The analysis exploits spatial and temporal variation in foreign-born residents' province shares and an instrumental variable strategy based on historical co-national local settlements. To rationalize the underlying mechanism, we show that migrant workers sort into risky occupations and we study workforce composition effects. We rule out that the effect is due to higher unemployment among natives with lower education, more exposed to injury risks, or to native workers' local migration. Longitudinal worker-level data from the Labor Force Survey show that native workers' transitions between sectors and occupations in response to immigration are not significant. Hence, our results suggest that the reduction in injury severity may result from a reallocation of riskier tasks from native workers, especially of older ages, to migrant workers, even when occupational transitions do not occur.