Mexican immigrant worker economics – remittances are the goal

The Arizona Republic presented information from the most recent Inter-American Development Bank about Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. The article starts with a personal profile: “Take Martin Armenta, for example. The Phoenix resident takes home $380 a week after taxes from his job as a cook. Yet he sends more than a third of his paycheck to his wife and two children in Sonora. How does he do it? With some serious scrimping. Armenta, 31, shares a three-bedroom house with seven other immigrant men, watches TV for entertainment and never goes out to eat.”

The key to creating jobs and other forms of economic development in Mexico and Latin American countries will be using remittances to finance micro-loans and mortgages. Those types of banking tools are currently unavailable to most poor people in Latin America, said
Sergio Bendixen, a Miami-based pollster who surveyed 2,511 Latino immigrants for a study of remittances commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank. Communities in the U.S. also stand to benefit from remittances by creating co-ops that encourage immigrants to invest money here instead of sending it home, de la Garza said.

Sending more home

The Inter-American Development Bank survey found that between 2004 and 2006, the percentage of immigrants sending money regularly increased from 61 to 73 percent. Still, the majority of immigrants who send money home earn wages considered working-poor or lower-middle-class by U.S. standards. About three-fifths earn less than $30,000 a year. A third earn less than $20,000, according to the survey, which was released in October.

About half of Latino immigrants find a job within a month of arriving in the U.S., the survey said. The first jobs they find tend to pay low, about $900 a month. But on average that is six times the amount they were earning in their home country.

Frugal lifestyle

In Mexico, incomes vary widely, but government information suggests that the vast majority of Mexican workers makes less than $21 a day.

Armenta said he sends money home to his wife and two children, ages 9and 3, every week to help them buy food, clothing and medicine. The family owns its home in Ciudad Obregón, the second-largest city in Sonora. His biggest expense is a $150-a-week car payment for the 1990 Ford pickup truck he bought shortly after arriving in Phoenix. The remainder of his $380 weekly paycheck goes to pay for auto insurance, gasoline, rent and food. Armenta’s monthly share of the rent, split eight ways, is about $230, including utilities. The only furniture in the house he rents is a sofa and a few chairs. For entertainment, Armenta watches TV. He doesn’t have cable. He also doesn’t have a bed. He said he sleeps on the floor. Armenta said he never goes out to eat.