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Government reactions to private substitutes for public goods: Remittances and the crowding-out of public finance

Christian Ambrosius

Journal of Comparative Economics, 2019, vol. 47, issue 2, 396-415

Abstract: Migrant remittances have been praised as an important source of capital for development. However, one aspect that has been relatively neglected so far is: How do governments respond to the inflow of remittances? This research claims that remittances crowd out public finance, because governments enjoy higher approval rates in the presence of remittances without the need to buy electoral support and face lower pressure for increasing public spending when private substitutes exist. Empirical evidence for this hypothesis is provided from subnational public finances in Mexico, using exogenous variation in migrants’ exposure to U.S. labor market conditions as an instrument for remittances. The panel analysis of trends in municipal budgets reveals that state governments responded to the inflow of resources by allocating funds away from municipalities with a stronger presence of remittances. This is true for private remittances as well as for collective remittances, i.e. cases in which migrants and public actors jointly finance public spending via matching grant schemes. The effect is driven by poorer municipalities and is stronger in states governed by the traditional party PRI that has been associated with a long history of clientelistic rule.

Keywords: Private remittances; Collective remittances; Matching grant schemes; Public finance; Sub-national finance; Governance; Mexico (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 D78 F24 H42 H72 H75 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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