Motivations for migration from Central America

A 2021 survey of thousands of migrant-sending households in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras looked that the interest in emigrating. In 2021, 43% wanted to emigrate; 3% actually made concrete plans to migrate. Family separation and high costs associated with migrating were cited as deterrents.

55% of migrants were said to have hired a smuggler at an average cost of US $7,500 per person, while migrating through legal channels came at a cost of U$4,500. For 89% of people, the United States was their intended destination country.

Food insecurity has seen a dramatic rise in Central America as the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty continue to make it harder for families to feed themselves. As of October 2021, the number of food-insecure people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras grew three-fold to 6.4 million, from 2.2 million people in 2019.

Migration flows have been driven by violence and insecurity, as well as climate-related shocks such as severe droughts in the Central American Dry Corridor and more frequent and stronger storms in the Atlantic. The devastating twin hurricanes that hit Central America in November 2020 contributed to the deterioration of living conditions for populations that were already vulnerable.

The Organization of American States said “the study presents evidence that migration in most cases is a survival mechanism and not the voluntary exercise of a right. The causes of migration are poverty, inequality, unemployment, food insecurity, violence, the impact of natural disasters and climate change: these require to be addressed in a decisive and comprehensive manner by States.”

The study is a joint effort by the Migration Policy Institute , the United Nations World Food Programme and the Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States.

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