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How a critical global economic phenomenon plays out along New York's Number 2 Subway line.
NEW YORK — It’s the American dream: Immigrants flock to this country to seek a better life.
But while they’re building their new lives, millions of immigrants set aside portions of their paychecks to send to family members in the developing world. These money transfers, known as remittances, are centuries old, but it’s only in the past decade that the practice has been intensively studied.
According to the World Bank, in 2008 global remittances reached a record $305 billion. Most of that flowed into developing countries, where it is often a leading source of foreign income. In Haiti, remittances are 20 percent of the gross domestic product; in Kosovo, they are 30 percent.
So it was cause for alarm in March when the World Bank projected that remittances will decline by 5 to 8 percent in 2009.
The hardship — a direct result of U.S. economic weakness — is already felt in many homes abroad. But in New York City, immigrant workers say that as long as they have jobs, they will keep sending money home. As much as they can spare.
That message is heard throughout “Payback,” this reporting project by The International Newsroom, a class at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, in association with GlobalPost.
In “Payback,” immigrants in New York City from Ghana, Haiti, Kosovo, Albania, Mexico, Yemen, Pakistan and China describe what it’s like to live in two worlds — often residing in the U.S. illegally and working low-wage jobs, while shouldering responsibilities back home, where economic conditions are worse and the opportunities far more limited.
So take a ride on the Number 2 New York City Subway line — which runs from Brooklyn, through Manhattan, and into the Bronx — but along the way marks the story of the world of remittances.
— Introduction by Jackie Bischof, The International Newsroom, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.