Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Shale A. Horowitz

Committee Members

Steven B. Redd, Uk Heo, David Armstrong, Natasha Sugiyama


Corruption, Political Economy, Remittances


This dissertation examines the relationship between migrant remittances, money earned by migrant workers and sent back home, and corruption. Remittances total more $400 billion US a year, making them an important capital flow with understudied political consequences. Some scholarship argues that remittances increase corruption by allowing governments to reduce their provision of public goods and redistribute wealth to political supporters as private goods. In contrast, I argue that the relationship between remittances and corruption varies by regime type. Remittances will likely aggravate corruption in relatively authoritarian regimes where governments require smaller supporting coalitions and may be more likely to view remittances as an opportunity to increase political patronage. Moreover, the costs of political activity are higher for remittance recipients in authoritarian regimes, and their probability of influencing corruption is lower. Remittances may help mitigate corruption, especially in democratic regimes. Democratic institutions require larger coalitions while lowering the costs of participation. I test the plausibility of my theory using cross-province level studies of Mexico and India-- two of the largest remittance-receiving states. Results from these cases do suggest that remittances associate with reductions in corruption while controlling for other socioeconomic and political causes. A third, cross-national study tests the theory's generality. Empirical analyses of panel data from 127 developing states between 2000 and 2010 generally support my expectations. This research advances social science by refining theoretical implications of migrant remittances while providing an empirical account of their political importance. Moreover, it guides future projects to focus on the factors that make remittances a curse in some states and a cure in others.