Marion Mercier, IRES – Université Catholique de Louvain.
Date: 31 March 2016
This paper describes the relationship between political leaders’ migration experience and the evolution of democracy during their leadership. We build up an original database on the personal background of 932 politicians who were at the head of the executive power in a developing country over the 1960 – 2004 period. These data reveal the existence of a positive correlation between the fact that leaders studied abroad and the change in the score of democracy in their country during their tenure, for leaders who reach power in initially autocratic settings. This correlation appears to be driven by leaders who studied in high-income OECD countries. The main finding, confirmed by various robustness tests, adds up to the recent literature on the effects of the characteristics of political leaders, and suggests a new channel through which migration may shape development and politics in the sending countries – namely, the emergence of the elites.
Marion Mercier is a post-doctoral fellow at IRES – Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium). She is IZA research affiliate and associate researcher to DIAL (IRD). She completed her Ph.D. in 2014 at the Paris School of Economics and at DIAL – IRD, under the supervision of Thierry Verdier (PSE) and Lisa Chauvet (DIAL – IRD). Her main fields of interest are development economics, migration and population, political economy and conflict, and social norms. To date, her research has notably focused on the impact of migration on local development, political economy and non-migrants’ behaviors in the country of origin of migrants, on the emergence and characteristics of political elites in developing countries, and on the causes and consequences of civil wars.