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Did Covid-19 Hit Harder in Peripheral Areas? The Case of Italian

By Tito Boeri, Francesco Armillei, Francesco Filippucci and Thomas Fletcher, in collaboration with Paris School of Economics and University of Edinburgh

The first wave of Covid-19 pandemic had a geographically heterogeneous impact even within the most severely hit regions. Exploiting a triple-differences methodology, we find that in Italy Covid-19 hit relatively harder in peripheral areas: the excess mortality in peripheral areas was almost double that of central ones in March 2020 (1.2 additional deaths every 1000 inhabitants). We leverage a rich dataset on Italian municipalities to explore mechanisms behind this gradient. We first show that socio-demographic and economic features at municipal level are highly collinear, making it hard to identify single-variable causal relationships. Using Principal Components Analysis we model excess mortality and show that areas with higher excess mortality have lower income, lower education, larger households, lower trade and higher industrial employments, and older population. Our findings highlight a strong centre-periphery gradient in the harshness of Covid-19, which we believe is highly relevant from a policy-making standpoint too.