A study released Tuesday shows that the money sent home by migrants from Latin American and the Caribbean reached $61.3 billion last year, with three-quarters of those remittances coming from the United States.
The report by the Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, found that remittances to the Caribbean and Central America increased, but money flows to Mexico, which received $21.6 billion in remittances, and South America were down.
Overall, remittances — considered an economic lifeline for many families in the region — still haven’t recovered to the levels before the 2008-2009 global economic crisis. Remittances reached a high of $64.9 billion in 2008 before plummeting by more than 10 percent the next year.
Remittances began to grow again in 2011 but have remained fairly flat since then. There was virtually no growth between 2012 and 2013
The strengthening of the economies of European nations and the United States and more positive labor trends are expected to boost remittances to the Americas by 5 to 7 percent in 2014, the MIF said.
While Mexico remained the largest recipient of remittances in the Americas, lower migration from Mexico has affected remittance levels, which fell 3.8 percent in 2013.
Guatemala ranked second as a remittance recipient with $5.1 billion, followed by Colombia ( $4.1 billion), El Salvador with nearly $4 billion, the Dominican Republic ($3.3 billion), Honduras ($3.12 billion) and Peru ($2.7 billion). Politically-torn Venezuela, received just $836 million in remittances, and Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, received $1.62 billion.
Jamaicans sent $2.07 billion home and Haitians contributed $2.02 billion to family and friends at home. Cuba wasn’t included in the MIF analysis.
Remittance levels to Central America were the first to show signs of recovery after the global crisis, according to the MIF. The average annual growth in remittances to Central American nations last year was 5.4 percent.
The Dominican Republic — with annual growth of 5.5 percent — helped boost overall remittances to the Caribbean, which grew by 3 percent. Other Caribbean countries showed growth rates of 1.3 percent to 1.6 percent.
Remittances sent to South America come from several main sources, including the United States, Spain, and Japan, which contributes mostly to Brazil and Peru. An estimated 21 million Latin American and Caribbean migrants were living in the United States at the end of 2013.
Remittances flows between South American countries — for example, from Brazil and Argentina to Bolivia — are also part of the equation in South America. Overall, remittance payments to South American nations fell 1.5 percent in 2013 — although they began to show signs of growth in the second half of the year.
Resources sent from abroad are mainly used to cover families’ basic expenses, according to the MIF. Because migrants want to get the maximum bang for their buck, factors such as high inflation and unfavorable exchange rates at home can impact remittance levels.