The Construction of Administrative Big Data As an Innovation for the Regulation of Social Welfare Benefits Delivery: The Case of Milan

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
David BENASSI, University Milan Bicocca, Italy
Paolo ROSSI, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
In Italy, as in most Mediterranean countries of Europe, social assistance benefits are poorly developed and regulated mainly at local level. Reforms in the last 20 years have strengthened the ‘municipalization’ of social assistance. Local public bodies (firstly Municipalities) currently enjoy a remarkable degree of discretionary power in the regulation of the provision of welfare benefits. However, this institutional discretion is rarely supported by an adequate process of evaluation of the conditions of the recipients, apart from administrative practices of “means-testing” in the initial assessment of applications.

This paper aims to fill this gap using a large database on recipients of monetary benefits in the city of Milan (the second largest city in Italy) that we obtained by the local administration. This archive is the result of a complex operation of merging of data originating from very different sources: the national fiscal administration, the national and local registers of buildings, the register of motor vehicles, the register of social housing, the local chamber of commerce, the registry office of the city, and so on. This is the first time that researchers have access to such a complete set of micro data.

The availability of administrative big data emerges both as an institutional innovation for policy design and as a professional and organizational challenge, since the construction, maintenance and use of administrative big data require a strong political involvement. The first findings of our analysis point out how the provision of local welfare benefits reflects broader social trends, such as the aging of native inhabitants and the growth of young immigrant population. Likewise, our data show how benefits provided at local level can overlap benefits provided by other institutions who operate at a regional or national level: this raises some questions about the multi-level regulation of social welfare benefits.