The American Basin of foreign labor

I looked at how ten Latin American and Caribbean countries are economically dependent on their citizens who live outside their countries. (See the list at the end, below). For the most part, the great majority of their expatriate citizens are in the United States.

Let’s call these ten countries the American Basin of foreign labor. Since 1960, they make up 20 million or 45% of all immigrants today. They include 4 of the top 10 countries of origin of American immigration since 1960.

The American Basin has a blended average per capita income of $17,000. 21% of the citizens live outside their country. Remittances back to the Basin counties are equivalent to 8% of Gross Domesttic Product.

A few of these countries are very little dependent on expatriate labor. Notable is Costa Rica, with per capita income of $20,000, less than 3% of its population outside, and with extremely low remittances as percentage of GDP (0.5%). Costa Rica has by far the lowest corruption rating of the ten countries.

The extreme opposite is Haiti. Its per capita income is $3000, 14% of its citizens live outside, and remittances are 18% of GDP. The following countries have remittances > 19% of GDP: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica

The ten countries: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. Cuba is not included because it is missing from some key databases.

Data sources: 


GDP per capita

Also, detailed analysis of global and regional trends are available in the Migration and Development Brief 34 at 

One thought on “The American Basin of foreign labor”

  1. At one time I worked for a boutique construction company in Manhattan.Several of our in-house laborers were (coincidently since I spent some time on their home island) Montserratians (British West Indies). Exactly how they made their arrangements I’m not sure but boy were they good workers and sure sent home the bacon.

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