With migrants sending more money home than ever, leaders from the money-transfer industry will meet in London November 1 to discuss current trends in remittances.
Remittances are monies sent by migrants to their country of origin, usually to support the families or communities they left behind.
In 2013, a total of about 990,553 migrants entered the United States from countries around the world, according to a United Nations analysis of immigration statistics reported by individual countries. That’s actually a slight decrease from the 1,031,631 in 2012. However, the overall trend is an upward one. In 2003 only 703,542 migrants came to the United States.
“Ninety percent of these migrants travel for economic reasons," said Veronica Studsgaard, Cofounder and CEO of the International Association of Money Transfer Networks. "Some of them send [money] to support their families in their home countries, other send their saving for when they go back, other to invest.”
These numbers include refugees, but do not include undocumented or illegal immigrants. The flow of undocumented immigrants is much harder to track. One estimate from the Pew Research Center put the number of undocumented immigrants at 11.1 million, or 3.5 percent of the population, in 2014.
Documented migrants sent about $55.5 billion out of the country in 2013, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute. Over the same period, emigrants from the United States sent about $6.8 billion back into the country.
Studsgaard said the modest growth in remittances over the last few years could be attributed to improved data collection and a movement from informal channels to more controlled channels within the Money Transfer Industry.
“They have more options on how to send their money to their country of origin,” Studsgaard said. “The traditional [money transfer organization] has been adapting to their customers’ requirements; innovation has taken a big part in this. Remittances can now reach places where money could not reach before.”
While people in the industry are quick to point out the social and economic benefits that receiving companies reap from remittances, people outside the industry wonder if remittances are hurting the economy of the United States.
Remittance flows to developing countries from countries around the world, at $432 billion in 2015, equaled three times the official development assistance sent to those countries, according to the Migration and Development Report issued by the World Bank.
The International Immigration Outlook 2016 published by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that host countries see little if any economic effect on the national scale due to migrants. However, the effects might be heightened in areas where large populations of migrants are concentrated, such as major urban areas.
Migrants make up about 16 percent of the U.S. labor force, according to the 2016 Migration and Development Report from the World Bank. Though migrants tend to send money home, logically meaning that they have less money to spend in the United States, the net fiscal impact of migrants tends to be positive, according to the report. Migrants fill jobs that may otherwise go unfilled, bring new skills, and contribute to innovation.
Migrants and remittances bring both positive and negative effects to their new homes. To better understand their impact, the United Nations General Assembly hosted a summit meeting on September 19 to address the large-scale movement of refuges and migrants. On September 20, the United States hosted a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees and announced the launch of the World Bank’s new Global Concessional Financing Facility.
The Annual Remittance Summit at the Global Money Transfer Summit will take a more global view, but a narrower scope, focusing on challenges and opportunities in the remittance business.