July 2023

IZA DP No. 16282: Illicit Shadows: An Economic Analysis of Trade Gaps in Cultural Goods through the Italian Market

Elia Acciai, Michele Belloni, Marina Della Giusta, Giovanna Segre

This paper provides evidence of a consistent gap in the value of cultural goods exported from Italy and the value declared by its trading partners in official trade statistics for the period 1994-2021 and discusses it in the context of the literature on illicit trafficking in cultural property, a phenomenon that plights a number of both developing and developed countries rich in cultural heritage. Differences between the four categories of cultural goods recorded (archaeological goods, antiquities, paintings, and sculptures) are exploited to highlight potential areas where trafficking might be expected to be larger. We construct a panel dataset to estimate a gravity model of the gap including market size, extent of trade, level of corruption and adoption of protective legislation (UNESCO and UNIDROIT) and discuss results indicating further questions to be investigated in this important and to date under researched policy area.