Emigration and Electoral Outcomes in Mexico: Democratic Diffusion, Clientelism, and Disengagement

Lu, Yao; Villarreal, Andrés

Does emigration deepen or depress democratic transitions in migrant-sending countries? This study examines the multifaceted and countervailing influences of migration on democratic outcomes in sending societies, as operationalized by electoral participation and competition. Drawing on longitudinal data compiled from several Mexican sources, we find that international migration, but not domestic migration, increases voter turnout and electoral competition in sending communities in Mexico. This pattern holds for low to moderate levels of emigration but is reversed for high levels of migration. The positive political impact of migration is limited to current emigration from communities of origin rather than return migration. Both documented and undocumented migration influence electoral outcomes but the political impact of undocumented migration is more pronounced. These comparisons of different types of migration and different functional forms allow us to explore the mechanisms through which migration affects electoral outcomes. The results are consistent with several proposed mechanisms: migration-driven democratic diffusion, weakened clientelism, and disengagement. Overall, the findings demonstrate the value of integrating demographic processes into explanations of political change.

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August 29, 2022