Covadonga Meseguer – London School of Economics

Agents of change? Political consequences of Return Migration?

We explore the political consequences of increasing rates of return migration to Mexico following a tightening of enforcement policies and a sharp deterioration in economic conditions in the U.S. Using data on Mexican municipalities in the period 2000–2010 and an instrumental variable approach, we find that high rates of return migration are causally related to greater electoral support for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), the traditional dominant party. Return migration is also related to lower election turnout and less competitive elections at the municipal level. We corroborate this finding using individual level data from the 2014 and 2016 waves of the “Mexico and the World” survey. The survey analysis shows that while returnees are less likely to vote, relatives with returnee members are more likely to support the PRI. All in all, by showing that return migration is causally related to more votes for the PRI, lower voting rates, less competitive elections, and diverging preferences among returnees and their families, our paper questions the role of return migrants as agents of democratic diffusion.

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