Are Nicaraguans working in Costa Rica more generous than those in the United States?

November 15, 2013

More Nicaraguan immigrants live in the United States than in Costa Rica, but those in Costa Rica send more money home, according to newly released data from the World Bank.

The data indicates that Nicaraguans working in Costa Rica sent $444 million to their home country in 2012, while Nicaraguans in the United States sent $430 million. Nicaragua is the only country in Central America in which the United States is not the primary source of remittances, according to the report.

Or, that scenario is wrong. According to the Nicaraguan Central Bank (BCN), 57.6 percent of remittances to Nicaragua come from the U.S. and 23 percent from Costa Rica.

Some 348,000 Nicaraguan immigrants live in the United States and 287,000 Nicas live in Costa Rica, according to the Pew Research Center and the 2011 Costa Rican Census. If the World Bank Data is correct, each Nicaraguan immigrant in Costa Rica sent an average of $1,547 dollars to their country in 2012, while each one in the United States sent $1,235 in 2012.

On Friday, the Pew Research Center published an analysis on remittances to Spanish-speaking Latina American countries concluding that money transfers to the region recovered from a decline during the 2009 U.S. recession. The exception was Mexico, where remittances continue to show a declining trend. 

Money sent home by migrants represents 16.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in El Salvador, 15.7 percent of GDP in Honduras, 10 percent of GDP in Guatemala, and 9.7 percent of GDP in Nicaragua, but it is only 1.2 percent of Costa Rica’s GDP. Costa Rica is the only country in the region with a deficit on money transfers. Ticos with relatives living abroad received a total of $522 million in remittances, but immigrants in Costa Rica sent home $561 million in 2012.

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