Transnational living? The trade-off between sending remittances and integrating in the host society: data and reflections based on the NEPIA survey
Institute of Advanced Social Studies (IESA) // Permanent Migration Observatory of Andalusia (OPAM) Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) Sevilla, Spain
In recent years, an increasing body of research has evolved regarding the cross-national nature of many international migrants' social networks and practices. While clearly addressing a relevant topic, the research literature on "transnationalism" has at times sampled on the dependent variable or even focused deliberately on specific segments of the migrant population, thus raising doubts as to the real-world relevance of cross-border networking.
This paper analyzes survey data (N=1800) collected in Andalusia (Spain) among international migrants from five different geopolitical areas of origin (Magreb, Subsaharian Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia) with a view to assesing the relevance and sustainability of what arguably is the most significant transnational practice in practical terms, i.e, sending remittances. The survey was conducted in 2003 in the framework of the NEPIA study (Needs of the immigrant population in Andalusia), co-financed by the Regional Government of Andalusia and the European Social Fund.
Our results contradict received wisdom on the topic, pointing as they do to a substantial reduction of remittance sending among those immigrants that have advanced most in terms of integration in the host society (length of stay; socio-economic attainment). Indeed, in general terms, our data imply that remittance sending behavior takes the shape of an inverted U, with a first period characterized by insufficient resources, a second period marked by relatively wide-spread and intense remittance sending and the third, by an equally marked decline. Remarkably, that decline seems to occur already after a few years of stay in the host country, far earlier than the existing research literature would suggest.
These results may be interpreted as evidence of shifting priorities. To the degree to which immigrants form or re-assemble a family and adopt some of the host society´s dominant patterns of behavior, including namely consumption patterns, the needs of other family members appear prone to recede in terms of perceived priorities. If confirmed by other studies, this finding could spell bad news for the prospect of converting remittance flows into a mainstay of economic "co-development", but good news for the process of social integration in Europe.