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Abstract

The development potential of remittances has resurfaced as a topic of analysis, based in part on dramatic increases in migration and amounts of money ‘sent home’, and partly in the growing interest and involvement by states and non-state actors in gaining leverage over remittances. The trend is indicative of an emerging remittance-based component of development and poverty reduction planning. This article uses the case of Mexico to make two broad arguments, one related to the importance of extra-economic dimensions of remittances, particularly the social and political meanings of remittances, and the other based on a disaggregation of remittances into family, collective or community-based, and investment remittances. Key dimensions of this typology include the constellation of remitters, receivers, and mediating institutions; the norms and logic(s) that regulate remittances; the uses of remittances (income versus savings); the social and political meanings of remittances; and the implications of such meanings for various interventions. The author concludes that policy and programme interventions need to recognize the specificity of each remittance type. Existing initiatives to bank the un-banked and reduce transfer costs, for example, are effective for family remittances, but attempts to expand the share of remittances allocated to savings, or to turn community donations into profitable ventures, or small investments into large businesses, are much more complex and require a range of other interventions.