NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Remittances Boost Latin Economies

October 22, 2002

Immigrants to the U.S. send more money to families back home in Latin American and Caribbean countries than all the official foreign aid sent to that region, according to estimates from the Inter-American Development Bank.

  • During 2001, immigrants from that area sent $23 billion to their countries of origin.
  • That represents one-third of the foreign capital flowing into the region -- and in some countries the total surpasses the revenue generated by exports, tourism and other national economic sectors.
  • The trend has become especially pronounced during the past five years -- and during the next decade, remittances could reach an annual sum of $300 billion, according to the bank's projections.
  • Mexico is by far the largest beneficiary with $9.273 billion sent back by immigrant relatives and friends in 2001 -- matching the revenues from tourism and agricultural exports, and equaling two-thirds of revenues from petroleum.

Although the jobs these immigrants hold are typically low-paying, immigrants in the U.S. are able to send an average of $200 to $300 monthly to their families.

The money is vital to the economies of the recipient countries. The greatest effect is seen in Haiti, where the sum represents about 17 percent of national production. In El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras it's about 13 percent. While in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Peru it represents 10 percent.

Analysts agree the rise in the amount of aid being sent to Latin American and the Caribbean partially reflects the precarious economic situation in the region which has spawned greater criminal activity in countries like Venezuela and Colombia and recently in Argentina, where urban instability has been accompanied by a rise in unemployment and poverty.

Source: Carlos Boyadjian, "Family Aid Boosts Latin Economies," Washington Times, October 22, 2002.


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