Think Creative Spring 2022

The economics of stability

1 out of 10 Roughly one of every ten migrants in the United States interviewed in 2021 reported investing in El Salvador, with primary investments being in property or businesses.

Remittances help families make ends meet.

Q & Awith Dr. Mariellen Jewers Technical Advisor to Creative’s Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization

Beyond sending remittances, many Salvadoran migrants in the United States have investments in El Salvador. Roughly one of every 10 migrants in the United States that were interviewed in 2021 reported investing in the country, with primary investments being in property or businesses. El Salvador’s economic contraction from 2020 to 2021 has been accompanied with an increase in intention to migrate among Salvadorans. Surveys of Salvadorans in high outmigration municipalities showed the share of individuals intending to migrate rose from 24 percent to 36 percent amidst the pandemic. El Salvador had the most dramatic economic contraction among Central American countries due to shutdown orders to halt the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, with Salvadorans at highest risk for migration suffering the most during the country’s closure. Formal employment opportunities have decreased dramatically in the wake of the pandemic. As of October 2021, El Salvador experienced the largest gap between formal employment opportunities available for new job seekers in decades. 3 “The gap in available employment for youth seeking jobs is particularly troublesome in El Salvador, given that unemployment is a substantial driver for youth to migrate,” the study said. The new report builds on Creative’s comprehensive work in the Northern Triangle on the intentions to migrate in 2019, which was called Saliendo Adelante: Why migrants risk it all . n

1 Tell us about the Center for Migration and Economic Stabilization’s approach to understanding and addressing migration. Jewers: Our understanding of migration is built on on-the-ground research and deep expertise of the intersection between migration and economic development. We know that a first mile approach—one that addresses the specific factors that force someone to leave their home without a legal pathway for immigration— can significantly mitigate irregular migration. Our decades of experience working with migrants informs our approach of leveraging the potential of migration policy and migrants to contribute to economic progress in receiving and sending communities. Finally, we identify evidence-based innovations that engage migrants as agents of sustainable development. How does Creative’s approach to addressing irregular migration work in the context of current policy and attitudes toward migration? Jewers: Irregular migration is a complex phenomenon. Creative has led the way in understanding the drivers of irregular migration by asking people why they choose to migrate. Creative’s 2019 Saliendo Adelante research project found that economic issues were drivers of migration from the Northern Triangle. We are very excited about the opportunity to engage more audiences with our new and previous research to inform decisions, as well as to put into action targeted programming to mitigate the economic and other drivers of irregular migration throughout the region. How does the most recent report on El Salvador fit into Creative’s ongoing work on migration? Jewers: Creative’s work in El Salvador is part of our ongoing advocacy of a first mile approach to mitigate irregular migration from the Northern Triangle. Building on Creative’s comprehensive work in the Northern Triangle on the intentions to migrate in 2019, our 2020 survey in El Salvador confirmed that economic insecurity remains a major—though not the only—driver of migration from El Salvador. When combined with financial education that promotes behavioral changes, digital wallets and similar technology can boost financial inclusion, asset building and personal investment, all of which are documented factors that lower individuals’ likelihood to migrate.



1 (Gammage, S. Migration Policy Institute, 2007) 2 (Velásquez, A. Center for Global Development, 2021) 3 (Argumedo, P. & Zuleta, A. FUSADES 2021)

Photos by Janey Fugate (top, center); submitted by Mariellen Jewers

24 | Think Creative | Spring 2022

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