Friday, November 23, 2007


The NY Times has a fascinating feature on Western Union, the former telegram company that has become the giant of the money transfer business. Much of that business is in "remittances" - money sent by migrants back to their home countries:
With five times as many locations worldwide as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Burger King and Wal-Mart combined, Western Union is the lone behemoth among hundreds of money transfer companies. Little noticed by the public and seldom studied by scholars, these businesses form the infrastructure of global migration, a force remaking economics, politics and cultures across the world.

Last year migrants from poor countries sent home $300 billion, nearly three times the world’s foreign aid budgets combined.

As the graphic accompanying the article illustrates, remittances play a significant role in the economies of some low-income countries. As we argue over immigration in the United States, it is a useful reminder that our immigration policy is also development policy (an argument made by Economist Lant Pritchett).

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