As the holiday draws close, more and more Asian immigrants are getting involved with one of their traditions: sending money to their family abroad. Lisa Gao is among this group. Since immigrating to the U.S. from TianJin, China more than seven years ago, she has worked as a waitress, a cashier and now as a nanny for a 5-year-old boy.
Right after Thanksgiving, she busied herself on Black Friday with genuine enthusiasm.
“It’s a good day to save through the entire year. Saving is always a good thing especially when you have a family to take care of in your home country.” Lisa says.
Work hard, save hard, and then send the hard-won money to family abroad is one of ethics many Asian Americans hold. This strong value seems to have paid off despite the economic downturn that has swept through the country in recent years.
Lisa’s parents, both in their 60s, live in China. As the first child of a large family, Lisa learned to take responsibility from an early age.
“I want [my family] to be proud of me and feel taken care of. And I did it. They know I am doing good here just from the money I send to them every year,” Lisa says, her eyes sparkling. “It’s not only about money, it’s a way of showing caring and your sufficiency, and making yourself feel good by taking care of your family. Therefore, your relationship does grow stronger.”
Sending money has never been easier. Now, more and more financial services accommodate this trend and immigrants’ needs for sending money to their home country, such as Western Union, ATMCASH, MoneyGram and PayPal, owned by eBay.
Exactly how much impact does the sending of money overseas have? According to the World Bank, 215 million international migrants transferred about $372 billion to developing countries in 2011, up from $332 billion in 2010. By 2014, remittances will reach $399 million in 2012, and $467 billion by 2014, according bank projections. Wall Street Journal this fall published the article, “Migrants cash keeps flowing home,” illustrating how overseas remittance has helped to strengthen the economies of developing countries, particularly in this era of global economic hardship. The reporter asserts: “Remittances remain a key source of hard currency for developing countries, often outstripping foreign direct investment and foreign aid.”
James Johnson, 37, is a freelance writer and former bank employee from Olympia.
“I have seen [remittance payments] numerous times working in the banking industry,” he says. “My co-workers and I felt it was very caring to work hard to send your money back home. The only thing that concerns me is local payroll money leaving the country rather than benefitting the local community.”
Others believe the benefit to the immigrant’s home country can circle back to the U.S., as increased buying power in those countries could lead to an increased demand for American-made products.
“With the help of the money, our living situation gets improved and we therefore are able to purchase some imported goods such as electronics that are beyond our budget before,” said John Gao, Lisa’s husband, who was able to immigrate to the U.S. with the aid of his wife.
And, according to a report from the Immigration Policy Center supports this- “States like California with large immigration populations likely benefit from remittances abroad because of an increase demand in U.S. exports.”
As this inflow of cash improves the standard of living in the recipient countries, those benefitting appear to adjust their values accordingly.
Many families including Lisa’s, would rather gather together and share each other’s company than live apart for any economic reason.
“My parents called me not long ago, saying that they really hope I can fly back to see them,” Lisa says. “They also said that they are doing better financially now, and really don’t care if I send money to them or not. I know things have been changing. But … I feel touched by my family’s response, and feel they care more about me as a person.”
Lisa’s story and the stories of others like hers demonstrate that there is more to this trend than the numbers.
In the end, what matters most is that hard-working, dutiful people have found a way to turn their good fortune in immigrating here into good fortune for their entire families.