Across the United States some six million immigrants from Latin America now send money to their families back home on a regular basis. The number of senders and the sums they dispatched grew even when the U.S. economy slowed, and looking to the future, the growth seems likely to continue and potentially to accelerate. The total remittance flow from the United States to Latin America and the Caribbean could come close to $30 billion this year, making it by far the largest single remittance channel in the world. These funds now reach large portions of the populations in the region–18 percent of all adults in Mexico and 28 percent in El Salvador are remittance receivers–and the impact is no longer limited to the countryside or to the poor. Taken altogether these indicators suggest that the remittance traffic in the Western Hemisphere has crossed a threshold not only in magnitude but also in significance.

Key findings from the 2003 MIF-PHC studies of remittance receiving populations in
Latin America include:

• Broad sectors of the adult populations in all the nations studied are receiving remittances: 14 percent in Ecuador, 23 percent in Central America and 18 percent in Mexico.

• Remittance flows were largely unaffected by the U.S. economic downturn of 2001-2002. In every country except El Salvador more than half of the recipients reported that they had started getting money from relatives abroad over the past three years.

• While in other countries remittance receipts are still concentrated in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, in Mexico remittances are flowing to all sectors of Mexican society and to virtually every region. Most significantly, in Mexico there were no statistically significant differences between remittance receivers and the general population in age, educational profile or income distribution.

• The one characteristic that clearly distinguishes remittance receivers from the general population in all the countries studied is that a majority are women.

• In Mexico, 19 percent of all adults, representing some 13.5 million people, answered positively when asked, “Are you thinking about emigrating to the United States?” Remittance receivers were much more likely (26 percent) to have migration in mind than those who are not (17 percent)