Nikhar Gaikwad (Columbia University), "How Overseas Opportunities Shape Political Preferences: A Field Experiment on International Migration"
Scholars have long debated how globalization shapes support for the welfare state. We ask how cross-border mobility influences the attitudes of a group at the center of global integration: labor migrants. To overcome the inferential challenges in comparing migrants and non-migrants, we conducted to our knowledge the first randomized controlled trial on the political effects of international migration. Partnering with local governmental and non-governmental organizations in Mizoram, India, we connected individuals seeking overseas employment with well-paying hospitality sector jobs in the Persian Gulf. We tracked subjects’ economic trajectories and political attitudes throughout the migration process. The opportunity to move overseas substantially improved individuals’ economic standing and confidence, more than doubling wages in the treatment group. Importantly, these opportunities significantly reduced support for taxation and redistribution, even for those who did not migrate. Our results illustrate how both the economic benefits and the “exit option” of migration alter individuals’ political preferences.
Co-sponsored by FAS and IQSS, the Program on Political Economy (PE) supports research-related activities that integrate the study of economics and politics, whether by studying economic behavior in the political process or political behavior in the marketplace. In general, positive political economy is concerned with showing how observed differences among institutions affect political and economic outcomes in various social, economic, and political systems and how the institutions themselves change and develop in response to individual and collective beliefs, preferences, and strategies.
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