Migration and Democratization in Brazil: The Case of Electoral Participation and Competition

Gori Maia, Alexandre; Lu, Yao

Deepening democratization in Brazil has coincided with sustained flows of domestic migration. This raises an important question of whether migration deepens or depresses democratic development in migrant-sending regions. Whereas earlier perspectives view migration as a political "brain drain," we contend that out-migration can generate resources that promote democratic processes back home. We investigate the role of migration in two aspects of democratization: electoral participation and competition. The analyses are based on spatial panel data models of mayoral election results across all municipalities between 1996 and 2012. The results show that migration increases electoral participation and competition in migrant-sending localities in Brazil. This study also identifies the sociopolitical context that conditions the impact of migration: the effect is most often present in the context of rural-urban migration and is more pronounced in sending localities with less democratic political structures than those with more democratic structures. Moreover, using spatial network models, we find evidence for the transmission of political remittances from migration destination municipalities to origin municipalities. The present study extends the research on the "migration-development nexus" to the political arena, thus demonstrating the value of integrating demographic processes into explanations of political change.

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July 20, 2021