How Does Childhood Environment Shape Political Participation? Evidence from Refugees


Where do the political behaviors and preferences of refugees come from? We compile a novel database of over 600,000 U.S. immigration records largely for refugees fleeing socialist dictatorships and link these records to national voter files. We show that an immigrant's origin country influences voting behavior and partisan preferences. Using a between-siblings design, we find that each additional year of time spent in the origin country is associated with an increased likelihood of voting in midterm (2.3%) and presidential elections (0.8%), as well as an increased likelihood of registering as a Republican in adulthood (2.2%). A Facebook survey of a comparable population reveals that immigrants who arrive in the U.S. at older ages look less like ideological partisans than people who arrive at younger ages. We propose four hypotheses for why more time in the origin country can manifest as increased civic engagement and conservatism once in the U.S.

Working Paper