Population, Geography and Transport

Population and Transport in Italy since 1861

Hierarchies, Dynamics, Growth

This project studies the spatial distribution of the Italian population between 1861 and 1991 at a detailed geographical level. Using spatial statistics and empirical regularities in population studies, it identifies a secular trend in population concentration which, starting around 1871 and concluding by 1971, transformed Italy’s rank-size distribution from immature to log-linear. Different phases in the concentration process coincided with different spatial patterns of population growth, and variation is exploited to explain several features of Italy’s economic development. The project also investigates the effect of the construction of the railway network on population distribution at the local level.

To perform the analysis, I have produced the first historical geodatabase of the Italian population at the municipal levels at ten-year intervals, from 1861 to 1991. Including geographical and control variables, the database contains more than 300,000 data points.

This project originated as my master’s dissertation, which I completed under the supervision of Dr. Brian A’Hearn at the University of Oxford. The dissertation has been awarded the Premio Sele d’Oro Mezzogiorno, Sezione Euromed, for best master dissertation.

In 2021 an extended version was published as a monograph (in Italian) by the academic publisher Rubbettino, with the title Il lento avvicinamento. Popolazione, ferrovie e territorio nell’Italia contemporanea (280 pp., €17.00).

I presented results at: