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Remittances—the money immigrants send to family members in their country of origin—are now centre stage in development and immigrant research. Yet in spite of this interest, research on the characteristics of remittance senders in Canada remains quite limited, in large part because of the absence of household survey data. More broadly, studies of remittance senders in Canada and elsewhere often focus on immigrants from only one or two source countries and, consequently, they do not provide a broad cross-national perspective on the issue. This study addresses these gaps by using the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) to document the incidence of remitting and the amounts remitted by immigrants from a wide range of countries.

Approximately two and four years after landing in Canada, LSIC respondents were asked "Since your last interview, have you sent money outside Canada to relatives or friends?"Respondents who said 'yes' were subsequently asked "How much money have you sent outside Canada to relatives or friends?" A significant minority of immigrants from the 2000-to-2001 landing cohort remitted funds to family or friends. During the 25-to-48-month period after landing, 29% of them remitted funds, sending $2,900 on average over this 24-month period. On an annual basis, the average amount sent by remitters was approximately $1,450, accounting for about 6% of total personal income before taxes and for about 3% of total family income before taxes. However, these estimates may be conservative because LSIC collected data on the remittance activities of individuals rather than those of families or households.

There is considerable variation in the remittance behaviours of immigrants from different regions of birth. Over half of LSIC respondents from Southeast Asia and the Caribbean and Guyana sent remittances home from 25 to 48 months after landing, while this was the case for about 40% of those from sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe. About one quarter of the respondents from South Asia and Central and South America sent remittances home during this period, while about one fifth of those from East Asia and from West Asia, the Middle East and North Africa did so. Immigrants from East Asia who remitted sent, on average, $3,900 over the 24-month reference period, while immigrants from the Caribbean and Guyana sent, on average, less than half that amount ($1,600).

Across countries of birth, 60% of immigrants from the Philippines and Haiti remitted from 25 to 48 months after landing, while about 40% to 50% of immigrants from Jamaica, Nigeria, Romania, Guyana and the Ukraine did so. Less than 10% of the immigrants from France, the United Kingdom and South Korea remitted during this period.

In terms of the admission categories through which immigrants are admitted to Canada, about 30% of immigrants in all three categories remitted from 25 to 48 months after landing. However, among the individuals who did remit, economic immigrants sent somewhat larger amounts than refugees (at $3,000 and $1,900, respectively).

There are strong correlations between remittance behaviours and financial characteristics. The predicted probability of remitting rises monotonically across family-income categories, from 10% among immigrants in families with incomes under $10,000 to 36% among those in families with incomes of $70,000 or more. Conditional upon remitting, the amounts sent abroad also increase monotonically across income categories. Similarly, immigrants who are employed on a full-time basis are significantly more likely to remit than those who are employed part time or are not in the labour force. Employment status is not correlated with the amount sent.

Place of residence is positively correlated with both the incidence of remitting and the amounts remitted. The predicted probability of remitting ranges from 21% among immigrants in Montréal to 34% among immigrants in Calgary or Edmonton. Among immigrants who remitted, those residing in Calgary/Edmonton and Vancouver sent about 16% more than those residing in Toronto.

Although LSIC information on family members abroad is limited, available evidence is consistent with the view that remittance behaviours are shaped by family characteristics. The likelihood of remitting and the amounts remitted are negatively correlated with the number of minor children present in the household. Similarly, immigrants who are sponsoring or intending to sponsor a family member to come to Canada are more likely to remit—and to remit more—than immigrants with no sponsorship activities or intentions.

View the publication Remittance Behaviours Among Recent Immigrants in Canada in PDF format.