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Mailing back pesos and politics : the impact of remittances on political behaviour and preferences in Ilocos, Philippines Ferrer, Phebe Minelle M.


The monetary remittances sent by migrants back to their families are often conceptualized in their developmental impact and democratization potential for the migrant sending country. Micro-level, political effects are consequently missed due to the existing literature’s preponderant focus on these macro-level, economic outcomes. Moreover, few studies have considered the specific impact of remittances on the political preferences of recipients. In this paper, I examine how remittances influence the political behaviour of recipients in the Ilocos Region of the Philippines. In 2017, remittances sent to the Philippines comprised approximately 10% of national GDP, with $33 billion USD in total sent to Filipino households. Of this, the Ilocos Region received an approximate 10% share of total remittances. Moreover, in 2017, the region had a 9% share in the total amount of Overseas Filipino Workers abroad. I analyze the political impact of remittances through the relational dynamic inherent in remittance-sending, and thus how the relationship maintained between the migrant sender and recipient can influence the latter’s political attitudes. I do this through a quantitative analysis of a 2016 household survey, encompassing 3,470 respondents across 158 barangays in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Of this sample population, 32% or 1,121 respondents reported receiving remittances, mostly from one or two sources. My initial findings are focused on access to government provided services, local political participation and voting behaviour. My results strongly indicate that while remittance recipients are less likely to access government services, their perception of ease in accessing such services increases. Recipients are also more likely to have a direct personal tie to the local mayor, as well as have a member of their household in office. Finally, recipients are significantly likely to solely consider the opinions of their remittance senders when deliberating on their choice of electoral candidates.

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