Giving Compass' Take:

• Cross-cultural mixing that occurs when people emigrate has significant economic potential. Policy can help facilitate that process to increase returns for all parties involved. 

• How can countries work together to increase this exchange to boost productivity? How can philanthropy work in advocacy and logistical capacities to support such exchanges? 

• Learn about North and Central American migration patterns to better understand the potential of such policies and practices. 

As of today, close to 40 million Latin Americans have migrated out of their country of origin, up from less than 10 million in the early 1980s. These emigrants represent about 15 percent of all migrants around the globe, which is twice as much as the Latin American share of the world’s population. This rising—and possibly irreversible—trend raises the question: Can growing diasporas—people living outside the country they were born in—represent an economic opportunity for Latin America?

While the Central American diaspora is mostly concentrated in the United States, more than half of South American migrants are spread throughout both the U.S. and Europe. This bridge to wealthy Western countries presents enormous economic growth and development opportunities for Latin America.

There are three main ways in which Latin American diasporas can support the development of their home countries: remittances, business networks, and the diffusion of knowledge and technology.

Evidence shows that migration plays a role in improving industry-level productivity for both sending and receiving countries of migrants. In fact, countries are more likely to become exporters of goods typical of their immigrants’ sending countries and their emigrants’ receiving countries.

Despite the significant potential of diasporas to foster economic development in their home countries, developing nations with large emigrant populations have not typically prioritized policies that aim to benefit from them. Deliberately tapping into diasporas’ unexploited capital could play an important role in reversing the worrying and well-documented slowdown in productivity ailing both advanced and emerging markets, including Latin America.

Read the full article on Latin American emigrants by Dany Bahar and Ernesto Talvi at Brookings