How Do Transaction Costs Influence Remittances
Using a new quarterly panel database on remittances (71 countries over the period 2011Q1- 2020Q4), this paper investigates the elasticity of remittances to transaction costs in a high frequency and dynamic setting. It adds to the literature by systematically exploring the heterogeneity in the cost-elasticity of remittances along several country characteristics. The findings suggest that cost reductions have a short-term positive impact on remittances, that dissipates beyond one quarter. According to our estimates, reducing transaction costs to the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3 percent could generate an additional US$32bn in remittances, higher that the direct cost savings from lower transaction costs, thus suggesting an absolute elasticity greater than one. Among remittance cost-mitigation factors, higher competition in the remittance market, a deeper financial sector, and adequate correspondent banking relationships are associated with a lower elasticity of remittance to transaction costs. Similarly, remittance cost-adaptation factors such as enhanced transparency in remittance costs, improved financial literary and higher ICT development coincide with remittances being less sensitive to transaction costs. Supplementing the panel analysis, the use of micro data from the USA-Mexico corridor confirm that migrants facing higher transaction costs tend to remit less, and that this effect is less pronounced for skilled migrants and those that have access to a bank account.