How Migrating Overseas Shapes Political Preferences: Evidence from a Field Experiment
76 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2021 Last revised: 18 Jan 2024
Date Written: March 1, 2019
Debates about how immigration affects the welfare state have often emphasized migrants’ demands for high levels of redistribution. While existing work has examined natives’ attitudes toward the welfare state, we know very little about migrants’ preferences about redistribution and how these are shaped by the experience of migration. This paper demonstrates that access to overseas employment reduces support for taxation and redistribution by bolstering individuals’ economic independence. We present results from a randomized controlled trial to facilitate migration from India to the Middle East for work. The intervention resulted in high rates of cross-border migration and significantly reduced support for taxation and redistribution among migrants, but not among their left-behind family members. We show that both migrants and their family members registered significant economic gains. We attribute their diverging redistribution preferences to migrants’ increasing financial independence from earnings compared to family members’ increasing dependence on remittances. Our results speak to longstanding debates about how economic gains shape preferences for redistribution and shed new light on the micro-level mechanisms by which globalization impacts welfare state politics.
Keywords: Globalization, Migration, Economic Policy Preferences, Taxation and Redistribution, Field Experiments
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