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Social Remittances as Credible Yardsticks: Expectations and the Information that Migrants Send Home

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How do social remittances (communication from contacts abroad) affect the political behavior of individuals at home? I argue that social remittances are an influential yet understudied source of naturally occurring information that causes individuals to form credible yardsticks. I define yardstick as a reference point that allows individuals to compare the provision of services in their country with service provision elsewhere. Individuals find the yardstick credible because it is influenced by a trusted source. When social remittances come from a higher-income country, I expect recipients to utilize that information to raise their expectations for service provision, lower their evaluation of existing government services in their home country, and act to improve their lives dependent on their circumstances. I expect individuals to take action within formal institutions when those institutions are reliable or outside of formal institutions when they are unreliable. Original semi-structured interview data from Guatemala provides a narrative that illustrates the feasibility of my argument. Utilizing individual-level public-opinion data from the AmericasBarometer (LAPOP) project, I identify quantitative support for my argument. Social remittances are positively correlated to expectations, negatively correlated to evaluation of government and existing services for monetary remittance recipients, and positively correlated to context-dependent action. Individuals respond by acting within institutions when they can rely on their governments but outside of them when they cannot. Additionally, social remittance recipients are less likely than non-recipients to respond to unreliable institutions by disengaging. These findings illuminate how social remittances are motivating for political participation and important to political behavior.

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This item is under embargo until February 14, 2024.