More than 40% of adult Latino immigrants in the U.S. -- or about 6 million people -- send money to Latin America, providing an economic lifeline for their relatives back home, a survey released Monday showed.
The survey by the Pew Hispanic Center think tank and the Inter-American Development Bank found remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean were expected to top $30 billion this year, 50% more than the total foreign direct investment for Latin America.
Forty-two percent of adult foreign-born Latinos living in the United States sent money back to Latin America regularly, according to the survey based on 11,000 face-to-face, telephone and focus group interviews in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador.
Among recipients, about 18% of adult Mexicans regularly received remittances, with the effect no longer limited to the countryside or the poor, the report showed. The profile of recipients closely mirrored that of Mexicans in the overall population in terms of education and income.
In El Salvador, 28% of respondents said they received money from the United States, the highest rate among the nations surveyed.
Since many adults have dependents, the money affects an even larger portion of the population.
"Migration is now not only an escape valve," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, at a seminar at the Inter-American Development Bank. "It is also a fuel pump."
The survey revealed that families made conscious decisions to send immigrants to the U.S. much the same way entrepreneurs seek out markets.
"Families linked to remittances are quintessential players in the era of globalization," Suro said.
Families saved between one-quarter and one-third of the remittances they received, the survey found.