Thursday, May 18, 2006

Remittances are larger than Philanthropy

The Wall Street Journal (5/13/06) reports on a study by the Hudson Institute on the size of international giving and remittances ("remittances" are funds sent by immigrats or migrant workers back to their family and friends abroad). While I don't always agree with all the conclusions and policy implications of the study, it does have good data about the extraordinary amount of private financial flows from the US to countries overseas. Here is an excerpt from the WSJ column:

...Then there is the charity from the U.S. private sector. In 2004, the latest year for which many numbers are available, Americans -- through schools, religious institutions, companies, foundations and families -- gave at least $71 billion to the developing world, more than three times what the government gave. The index authors say it is impossible to capture all giving, so if they've erred it's on the low side.

Almost $10 billion came from private groups, $4.5 billion from religious organizations and nearly $5 billion from corporations. But perhaps the most impressive private giving, and arguably the most efficient, is in the category of individual remittances, which the index puts at $47 billion in 2004. According to the authors, "The massive amounts of money sent home by immigrants and temporary workers -- involving little or no overhead and filling people's basic needs directly -- is changing the landscape of development and donor agencies."