How do citizens in developing countries access public services? Scholars study this question by emphasizing the role of government, measuring government performance as household access to public services, such as clean water and sanitation. However, we argue that the state does not hold a monopoly on provision of such utilities: citizens in developing countries often turn to nonstate providers for basic utilities. In Mexico, we find that direct money transfers from migrants, known as remittances, are used to provide household access to public services. Our statistical analysis across Mexico's 2,438 municipalities demonstrates that citizens improve their own access. Our results also contribute new evidence to the literature on remittances and development by offering a micro-level explanation for how remittances impact both the availability and the source of basic utilities. Our findings suggest that the measures scholars typically associate with government performance may in fact capture non-state provision of basic utilities.
Forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies.