Will Migrant Remittances Continue Through Time? A New Answer to an Old Question

Elizabeth Grieco

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Abstract

This paper analyses the influence of continued migration and network participation on migrant household remittance behaviour. The “remittance decay” hypothesis suggests that the amount of remittances sent by migrants to their countries of origin declines through time. However, empirical studies have found that the passage of time does not significantly influence migrant remittance behaviour and that remittances are maintained at high levels over long periods. If remittances do not decline, as suggested by remittance theory, why do they continue through time, as suggested by empirical research? This paper uses network theory and the concepts of social capital and social ties to build an analytical framework to answer this question. Remittances are not simply sent but exchanged for resources accessible through the maintenance of relationships with other network members. Instead of asking what motivates migrants to remit, this paper focuses on those factors that influence the continued existence of migrant/non-migrant relationships in which remittances are exchanged. Family reunification is the underlying social process that determines household remittance behaviour. Increasing, continuing, or declining remittance levels simply reflect the process of household reconstitution abroad. Thus, as families reunite in the new homeland, less money is sent back to the country of origin. In addition, participation by households in migrant networks positively influences remittance behaviour.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Grieco, Elizabeth. Will Migrant Remittances Continue Through Time? A New Answer to an Old Question. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2004, vol. 6, no.2, pp. 243-252. UNESCO. ISSN 1564-4901. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol6/issue2/art3

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