Paarlberg's research focuses on immigration, labor, and security issues in the US and Latin America. Overarching themes in Paarlberg's writings include the influence diaspora communities have over politics in their home countries; labor conditions of low wage workers, gangs and corruption, and the criminalization of immigrants. Paarlberg is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and was a Latin America Policy Advisor to the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign.
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Finds one party in the El Salvador and Salvadoran diaspora to be highly effective in grassroots mobilization of diaspora supporters due to historical legacies of migration and deep infrastructure investment, while its rival party, ARENA, lags due to similar historical legacies.
Uses survey data and interviews with politicians in Mexico, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic to understand the benefit diaspora communities provide parties and candidates, estimating the effect they have on the political behavior of relatives in home countries, and finding politicians' perception of their impact to be exaggerated.