MIGRANT REMITTANCES AND INEQUALITY IN CAPE VERDE
Department of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
This paper juxtaposes theoretical notions concerning the relationship between migrant remittances and socio-economic inequality with an anthropological case study of remittances in Cape Verde. Contemporary theorizing involves firstly the idea that remittances do not benefit the poorest; secondly the conclusion that the impact of remittances changes over time; thirdly the notion that family structure influences the distribution of remittances, and fourthly the proposition that remittances have a stronger impact on social stratification when linked to the return of a migrant. The primary aim of the paper is to use these theoretical notions as entry-points for analysing how remittances interplay with patterns of inequality in Cape Verde. A second aim is to examine the explanatory power of the theories through applying them to this specific case.
The paper demonstrates that remittances in some cases benefit the poorest in Cape Verde and that this has to do with the long history of migration, which has implied that nearly everyone, irrespective of class, has a close relative abroad. It also shows that Cape Verdeans generally receive quite small amounts of money, which implies that they seldom are able to improve their economic situation in a more substantial way.
In conclusion the paper contends that in order to fully appreciate the complex relationship between remittances and socio-economic inequality in Cape Verde it is necessary to take into account the importance of other sources of income. Moreover, it argues that the contemporary restrictive immigration regimes in receiving countries have a fundamental impact on the socio-economic distribution of remittances. In studies of the relationship between remittances and inequality this is an aspect that is left out. Instead theorizing tends to focus on factors that are internal to the countries of origin, and on the migrants’ links to these countries.
Key words: Migration regimes, remittances, socio-economic inequality, Cape Verde
Lisa Åkesson is Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at the Department of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Senior Researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden. Her research focuses on trasnational migration, family and kinship, moral, migrant remittances, migration policies and migration and development. Since 1998 Åkesson has carried out various periods of fieldwork in Cape Verde. She has published on Cape Verdean migration in journals such aso Ethnos, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies,Global Networks and International Migration. Currently Åkesson carries out research on circular migrants in policy and practice.