Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to analyse the issue of welfare use by migrants in Italy and overcome the limitations of previous studies related to the quality of the data and to the high level of fragmentation of the Italian welfare system.
Design/methodology/approach – In this paper the author is able to overcome the limitations of previous research by using an original administrative archive of means tests, performed at all levels of the public administration, to establish individual's and households’ eligibility to all kinds of benefits, both in cash and kind.
Findings – Results show that, without controlling for observable characteristics, migrants from outside the EU are more likely to apply for welfare. Once individual and household characteristics are controlled for, such a residual welfare dependency is greatly reduced but does not disappear. Geographical location is a key factor, given that migrants tend to locate in the richest areas of the country, which also happen to be the ones where local welfare is most generous.
Originality/value – To the best of the author's knowledge, the administrative database used in this paper has never been used for analysing the use of welfare by migrants. Moreover, the role of geographical sorting of migrants has never been investigated in this area.