International monetary transfers: Three essays on migrant decision-making

Mariano Sana, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation consists of three essays on migrant transfers. In the first essay, based on the theoretical rationale of new economics of labor migration, I show that family structure and degree of market development play important roles in explaining remitting behavior among Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican migrants. These factors shape international migration in a way that determine a specific profile of the heavy remitter: a male laborer of low educational attainment, who is in the United States for a short term and who typically works long hours in a seasonal job in order to accumulate extra-savings to send home. The same factors, however, do not help to understand remittances among presumably settled migrants. Hence, in the second essay I elaborate a remittance narrative for presumably settled migrants based on the transnational migration paradigm. I postulate that a male migrant's remitting behavior will be positively associated with the fall in social status that he experiences in the United States. An empirical test, however, provided little support for this idea. A fall in occupational prestige and a decline in patriarchal authority do not motivate remitting behavior among male migrants from the three countries understudy. Instead, I find that structural conditions in the communities of origin of the migrants influence their remitting behavior, irrespective of their situation in the United States, consistent with predictions from the new economics of labor migration. My third essay draws a parallel with an idea developed by fertility theorists that postulates an old-age security incentive for high fertility in developing countries. Similarly, I propose that migration may operate as a strategy to secure retirement. My empirical analysis on Mexican migrants to the United States gives strong support to this idea: those who hold informal jobs are much more likely to migrate than those whose jobs are covered by the Mexican social security system. In addition, among the Mexican elderly, those with migration experience are more likely to hold a pension. Longer US experience systematically increases this likelihood. Since social security is one more type of insurance my contribution readily aligns with the new economics of labor migration, adding one more market to the list previously developed by migration theorists.

Subject Area

Demographics|Labor economics

Recommended Citation

Sana, Mariano, "International monetary transfers: Three essays on migrant decision-making" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3087463.