WP145: Another resource curse? The impact of remittances on political participation

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Working papers
Dionne, Kim Yi, Kris L. Inman and Gabriella R. Montinolao

International remittances have grown dramatically over the past few decades. Existing scholarship on the impact of remittances has focused on their socioeconomic effects. This article focuses instead on the political impact of remittances, and in particular, its effect on political participation. Recent work on Mexico suggests that remittances may be a resource curse. They insulate recipients from local economic conditions, weaken the link between government performance and individual well-being, and reduce incentives to participate in politics. The resource model of participation, however, suggests that since remittances increase incomes, they should increase political engagement. To our knowledge, we provide the first cross-country, individual-level analysis on remittances’ effect on political participation. We employ data from 27,713 individuals across 20 sub-Saharan African countries. We find that remittance recipients are less likely to vote but more likely to participate in politics by contacting government officials directly as well as joining demonstrations and protest marches. Our work thus shows that remittances may not necessarily demobilize citizens, as previous work on Mexico suggests.