Migrants and the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Remittances

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This analysis by the Migration, Remittances and Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue offers a glimpse of the potential impact of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic on US immigrants and family remittances.

This pandemic will have particular consequences for those who are financially vulnerable and have underlying health risks. Even though this pandemic tends to be more dangerous for older adults, migrants (who are typically far younger than this high-risk age-group) will likely still be disproportionally affected. [1]

With continued business closures, diminished economic activity, and a forecast recession, migrants, who predominantly work in the construction and services industries, may be the first ones to lose income—either by working fewer hours, days, or losing their jobs.

Past events involving worldwide crises can offer insight as to how this pandemic will likely affect remittance transfers. Considering migrants’ financial and health vulnerabilities as well as the forecast recession, a conservative estimate shows that remittances will register a negative seven percent (-7 percent) decline in 2020 relative to 2019, from $76 billion to $70 billion.

This decline in remittance growth highlights the pressure that migrants will feel in their attempts to remit and will also have consequences for recipient families who depend on remittances as a large portion of their income.

Major findings include:

  • Thirty-five percent of migrants in the US earn less than $20,000 and fifteen percent earn over $50,000.
  • Twenty percent of all migrants are uninsured. Among the unauthorized population and non-citizens, this number is even higher. [2]
  • Half of the migrants in a 2013 Inter-American Dialogue (IAD) study reported that they would self-medicate without seeking medical attention.
  • Following the 2009 crisis, migrants’ capacity to send money to relatives dropped by at least ten percent during the 2009 financial crisis, which had an eight percent increase in the unemployment rate within 18 months.
  • In 2020, thirty-five percent of migrants will send five percent less than they would have prior to the pandemic.

Download the analysis here.

[1] Over eighty percent of migrants are under 65 years of age.

[2] Pew Research Center tabulations of 2017 American Community Survey (1 percent IPUMS).

Press coverage of this analysis: 

En 3 por ciento caerán remesas de Estados Unidos a América Latina debido al covid-19 (March 21, 2020 - Tu Nota)

Las remesas de EEUU a América Latina «caerán 3% en la mitad de 2020» debido al coronavirus (March 20, 2020 - Univision)

Dos mil millones menos en remesas recibirá América Latina (March 20, 2020 - La Gente)

Covid-19 | US$2 mil millones menos en remesas recibirá Latinoamérica (March 20, 2020 - República)


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