From Undocumented Status to Legal Residence
There is a big discrepancy in the amount of news on undocumented migrants around the world, and the actual number of scientific studies on this population. This is largely due to the difficulties in surveying undocumented migrants, and consequently the very few number of data sources containing information on legal status.
In a new quantitative study, Simone Cremaschi and Carlo Devillanova (Bocconi University) analysed data from a unique 2007–2008 dataset collected as part of the European EQUAL project. This dataset provided information on both documented and undocumented immigrants living in the southern Italian region of Calabria. The authors were interested in estimating the correlation between different types of personal contacts individuals have, and the chances of obtaining legal residence. They were also interested in assessing the effect of personal contacts on labour market participation and job characteristics of this population.
The study provides evidence that, overall, having personal contacts in the place of residence increases the chances of obtaining regular status. However, they found sharp differences in this effect depending on who is part of an individual’s network. Having native and/or family contacts is positively associated with the chances of obtaining regular status. The authors conjecture that this is probably related to the fact that family and natives are particularly effective in connecting immigrants with better-quality occupations.
In contrast, those who only have contacts with their ethnic group are less likely to access opportunities for legalisation. They often end up in poorer-quality jobs, which lower their chances of acquiring or maintaining legal status. These results are also influenced by the fact that natives are often able to offer better-quality information on administrative procedures than co-ethnic contacts, and due to a possible language-skills advantage of those who have native contacts.