Remittances and Development in Latin America


  • The authors thank Richard Adams and Maria Soledad Martinez Peria for providing them with their data on those of remittances, and Guillermo Beylis and Nam Suk Kim for valuable research assistance. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors only and should not be attributed to the World Bank, its Executive Directors or the countries they represent.


Flows of workers’ remittances have become a major source of external finance for developing countries and are particularly important in Latin America and the Caribbean, where they are estimated to have reached $40 billion in 2004. Not surprisingly, academics, policymakers and development practitioners in general have been devoting increasing attention to the potential development impact that these flows may have on receiving countries. This paper contributes to this debate along four dimensions. First, it reviews the evolution of remittances flows to Latin America, using Balance of Payments data, and compares these statistics with estimates of remittances income based on Household Surveys. Second, the paper describes the varying profile of remittances recipients in ten Latin American countries. Third, the paper reviews the few macro- and microeconomic studies that have estimated the impact of remittances on poverty and inequality. Finally, the paper expands some of the existing works to investigate the extent to which that impact is different in Latin America and varies across countries in the region.