The Check Is in the Mail; April 2006; Scientific American Magazine; by George Musser; 2 Page(s)
If there is any political issue that could use a dose of scientific rigor, it is migration. U.S. immigration policy is widely regarded as a total mess, the European melting pot produces pelting mobs, and all over the world tall fences have been constructed to keep facts from entering the debate. One of the most far-reaching aspects of migration often gets ignored altogether: remittances--the money and gifts that migrants send back to families and friends. Studies have chronicled what individual beneficiaries do with the largesse, but the broader effect is only dimly understood. "No one has worked on it seriously," says social anthropologist Jorge Durand of the University of Guadalajara in Mexico.
That is finally starting to change. In December remittances were the topic of a special conference in Mexico City organized by the country's National Population Council and several U.N. agencies, and the World Bank highlights them in its flagship annual report, the 2006 Global Economic Prospects. Politicians have perked up, too. Mexican president Vicente Fox has called migrants--one in 10 of his citizens--"heroes" for their generosity.