Do Politicians Discriminate Against Internal Migrants? Evidence from Nationwide Field Experiments in India

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Abstract

Rural-to-urban migration is reshaping the economic and social landscape of the Global South. Yet migrants often struggle to integrate into cities. We conduct countrywide audit experiments in India to test whether urban politicians discriminate against internal migrants in providing constituency services. Signaling that a citizen is a city newcomer, as opposed to a long-term resident, causes incumbent politicians to be significantly less likely to respond to requests for help. Standard “nativist” concerns do not appear to explain this representation gap. We theorize that migrants are structurally disposed to participate in destination-area elections at lower rates than long-term residents. Knowing this, reelection-minded politicians decline to cater to migrant interests. Follow-up experiments support the hypothesis. We expect our findings to generalize to fast-urbanizing democracies, with implications for international immigration too. Policywise, mitigating migrants’ de facto disenfranchisement should improve their welfare.

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APA

Gaikwad, N., & Nellis, G. (2021). Do Politicians Discriminate Against Internal Migrants? Evidence from Nationwide Field Experiments in India. American Journal of Political Science, 65(4), 790–806. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12548

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