November 14, 2013

Remittances to Latin America Recover—but Not to Mexico

3. Sources of Remittances to Latin America

Percentage of Total Country Remittances from U.S., 2012The United States is the single largest source of remittances to Spanish-speaking Latin America, accounting for $41 billion of the $52.9 billion in money sent home by migrants in 2012. Funds transferred to Latin America account for a third (33%) of remittances from the U.S., according to World Bank data analyzed by the Pew Research Center.

Although about three-quarters (78%) of all remittances to Spanish-speaking Latin American countries come from the U.S., the share varies widely from country to country. In Mexico, 98% of remittances are sent from the U.S.; in Paraguay, 6% are. Mexico also towers over other Latin American countries in the amount of U.S. remittances it receives: $22.8 billion in 2012, accounting for more than half of money transferred to the region from the U.S. The nation with the next highest amount—Guatemala—received $4.4 billion.

Of the 17 Spanish-speaking countries that are the focus of this report, the U.S. is the main source of remittances to seven. In addition to Mexico, the U.S. is the source of the majority 0f remittance money received in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica, in order of share from the U.S. It is the largest sending country of remittances to Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.

Spain sends more than the U.S. in remittances to Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Remittances to Latin America from Other Countries

Remittances to Brazil

Remittances to Brazil are estimated at $2.8 billion in 2013, according to World Bank figures. This reflects a sharp reduction from $4.9 billion in 2012, but the change is due mainly to a revised definition of remittances that removed a category of capital transfers between households (see text box in Chapter 1).

The World Bank has adjusted remittance totals to Brazil from 2005 onward to reflect the new definition. Looking at trends from 2005 to 2013, remittances to Brazil peaked at $4 billion in 2008. Remittances declined from 2009 ($3.1 billion) to 2012 ($2.6 billion). Remittances to Brazil in 2013 are estimated at $2.8 billion.

Brazil receives about a quarter of its remittances from the U.S. (26% in 2012).

Additional data about remittances to Brazil can be found in Appendix A.

In terms of total remittances to Latin America, Spain, which sent $4 billion and supplied 8% of remittances, ranked second to the U.S. in 2012. Canada, which sent $704 million and supplied 1% of remittances, ranked third.

The countries with the highest shares of remittances from Spain are Ecuador (44%) and Bolivia (42%). Spain also supplies about a third of the remittances to Argentina (35%) and Venezuela (31%) and more than a quarter of remittances to Uruguay (29%).

In terms of dollars, Spain also contributed more to Ecuador than to any other Latin American nation ($1.2 billion). The other top destination countries in 2012 were Colombia ($751 million), Peru ($472 million), Bolivia ($431 million) and Dominican Republic ($417 million).

However, a number of Latin American nations receive a notable share of remittance funds from countries other than the U.S. or Spain. Among the 14 Spanish-speaking Latin American nations with $500 million or more in 2012 remittances, six—Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru—received more than 40% of those dollars from countries other than the U.S. or Spain. Other countries within Latin America are among the other major sources of remittances; for example Venezuela is the second-largest source of remittances to Colombia, after the U.S.

Percentage of Total Country Remittances from Spain, 2012Argentina, which received 47% of its $573 million in 2012 remittances from nations other than the U.S. or Spain, did not receive a notably large share from any nation other than those two.

In 2012, Bolivia received 45% of its $1 billion in remittances from nations other than the U.S. or Spain. Spain ($431 million) contributed the largest amount, followed by Argentina ($301 million) and the U.S. ($130 million).

The U.S. was the largest contributor ($1.3 billion) in 2012 to Colombia’s $4.1 billion in remittances, followed by Venezuela ($1.1 billion) and Spain ($751 million). Colombia received half (49%) of its remittances from nations other than the U.S. or Spain in 2012.

Nicaragua received $1 billion in remittances in 2012, 56% of it from nations other than the U.S. or Spain. Costa Rica ($444 million) was the largest source of remittances to Nicaragua in 2012, followed by the U.S. ($430 million) and Spain ($18 million).

Paraguay received $872 million in remittances in 2012; 59% of that amount ($512 million) came from Argentina.

Peru received 44% of its $2.8 billion in 2012 remittances from nations other than the U.S. or Spain. The U.S. ($1.1 billion) and Spain ($472 million) were the top source countries, followed by Italy ($236 million).