Remittances sent to the Dominican Republic are used primarily for household sustenance including food, utilities, transportation, and heath care. Once these needs are met, surplus remittances are used to improve a family’s quality of life (furniture, motorbikes, appliances) and to save for major expenses (purchase of land, building houses, starting businesses) or, more generally, for a post-migration future. Remittance are also used to pay debts (sometimes related to smuggling fees) and to subsidize the migration of relatives.

The beneficiaries of remittance are usually a migrant’s spouse, children, and parents, but other family member, such as siblings, are also supported. The number of people dependent on a given migrant’s remittances can dilute the beneficial effects to each of them and predispose the need for continued migration. It is also common for family members in the Dominican Republic to need or demand more than a migrant can afford, thereby overburdening the migrant and undermining his or her chances for successful establishment in the host country. The problem is alleviated in some households by receipt of remittances from more than one family member working abroad.

Remittances are generally managed by a spouse or parent. Female migrants tend to remit to other women—often their mothers—who responsibly allocate the scarce resources to stabilize the family’s wellbeing. Husbands and male consensual partners have the reputation of squandering the money (alcohol, cockfights) or using it to support relationships with other women. As Sonia explained, “Women are more responsible. We think more about how we are going to live tomorrow, what we’re going to do tomorrow in order to survive. Men don’t—they live in the moment. They don’t think, they don’t think about what’s going to happen tomorrow.”[1]

A percentage of remittance income is lost to the costs of transfer services and currency exchange. The fees to transfer money to the Dominican Republic generally range between around 3 and 8 percent of the amount sent. In a 2006 study done in Washington Heights, a 3.3 percent fee was average; a 2004 Inter-American Development Bank report shows an 8 percent fee; and a 2012 news article indicated that the fee to transfer $200 to the Dominican Republic, 7.3 percent, was the highest among Latin American countries. In a study published in 2000, a migrant sent $50 a week to her mother and paid $15 for each transfer.[2]

[1] For examples see Mar García Domínguez, Gender, Remittances and Development: The Case of Women Migrants from Vicente Noble, Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo, United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, 2006), 50.

[2] The sources are, respectively, Shanny Spraus, The Domestic Impact of International Remittances: The Role of Dominican Remittances in Washington Heights, New York (Master’s thesis, City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006), 51; Multilateral Investment Fund, Inter-American Development Bank, “Sending Money Home: Remittance Recipients in the Dominican Republic and Remittance Senders from the US” (November, 2004), 6; Alex Renderos, “Website Helps Immigrants Compare Fees To Send Money Home,” Los Angeles Times (February 3, 2012); and Milagros Iturrondo, Voces quisqueyanas en Borinquen (San Juan: Ediciones Camila, 2000), 72. See Spraus, 30, where the range is 1.3 percent to 8.3 percent of the amount remitted.