Development Context and the Political Behavior of Remittance Recipients in Latin America and the Caribbean

Abstract

Remittances have become a chief source of family income in developing countries. As such, these revenue streams have the potential to impact recipients’ political behavior. Empirical studies investigating this proposition, however, have yielded seemingly contradictory findings. We develop a theoretical framework that highlights the importance of national development context in understanding the distinct cross-national political behavior patterns between remittance recipients and non-recipients. Leveraging the variations in development levels across 24 Latin American countries, we evaluate propositions derived from this contention that the political implications of remittances depend in part on the development context into which they flow. We find evidence for a posited inverse relationship between development levels and the extent to which receipt of remittances induces political participation. We argue these divergent patterns emerge from the asymmetrical effect remittances have on the economic perceptions and cross-border ties of recipients living in distinct development contexts.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These results are presented in the online appendix (see Table A4; Fig. A1).

  2. 2.

    We would like to thank the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and its major supporters (the United States Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, and Vanderbilt University) for making these data available. For more information on the methods and sampling strategies employed for the collection of these data, as well as information about how to access the data, please visit the LAPOP website at: www.lapopsurveys.org.

  3. 3.

    The wording of this item is as follows: “How often do you communicate with [your relatives abroad]? (1) Never, (2) Rarely, (3) Once or twice a month, (4) Once or twice a week, or (5) Every day.”

  4. 4.

    The full range of this index is as follows: 0 = No relatives abroad; 1 = Relatives abroad but “never” communicates with them; 2 = Relatives abroad but communicates with them “rarely;” 3 = Relatives abroad and communicates with them “once or twice a month;” 4 = Relatives abroad and communicates with them “once or twice a week,” and 5 = Relatives abroad and communicates with them “every day.”

  5. 5.

    All countries in our sample hold presidential elections, except Belize, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

  6. 6.

    Further details on the wording, coding, and descriptive statistics for all dependent and independent variables are presented in Tables A1 and A2 in the online appendix.

  7. 7.

    Multilevel models were estimated in STATA 15.1.

  8. 8.

    Table A3 in the online appendix presents data on the level of Human Development for each country included in our analysis.

  9. 9.

    Mean predicted probabilities in this and other figures were estimated using the “margins” command in STATA 15.1. All graphical representations are based on the multilevel results reported in the tables. The statistical significance of differences in mean predicted probabilities between remittance recipients and non-recipients was determined by exploring 95% confidence intervals computed using the Delta-Method.

  10. 10.

    The survey item on help requests from a local government official was not included in the LAPOP survey for Bolivia. For this reason, the models for this dependent variable are based on 23 countries, and not 24 as the rest of our analyses.

  11. 11.

    See Table A5 and Figs. A2–A4.

  12. 12.

    See Box 1 in the online appendix.

  13. 13.

    See Tables A13–A15.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful to the editors of Political Behavior and anonymous reviewers for their excellent feedback. Abby Córdova also thanks the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame for supporting her research with a visiting fellowship, which allowed her to work on this project. The data and code to replicate the results reported in this paper can be found in the Political Behavior data archive in Dataverse.

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Córdova, A., Hiskey, J. Development Context and the Political Behavior of Remittance Recipients in Latin America and the Caribbean. Polit Behav (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-019-09574-5

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Keywords

  • Political participation
  • Remittances
  • Migration
  • Development