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Abstract

Most research on remittances focuses on economic motivations, with little emphasis on the social contexts in which the remittance economy operates. Through an analysis of in-depth interviews with migrant workers in a London hotel and hospital, we examine how migrants’ familial and social relationships in both sending and receiving countries inform the decision to send remittances. We suggest that remittances are a mechanism through which migrants are able to fulfil multiple obligations to families and places of origin, while also enhancing their own economic status and future. First, satisfying the cultural expectation of sending remittances helps migrants maintain their social worlds at “home”. Second, we observed that both positive and negative changes in power and resources influence the decision to send remittances by motivating migrants to invest in their social position in either their home or receiving country. In sum, we argue that the migrants’ social experience in the United Kingdom might be just as predictive of remittance behaviour as their economic and social status in the country of origin. We, therefore, call for a need to move beyond the often one-sided concern with development by concentrating on the overlapping social worlds of migrants.