Published on People Move

Visualizing Global Remittances – Big Data Mapping of Bilateral Flows

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Global flows of cross-border remittances exceed $500 billion in money transfers across a dizzying array of bilateral corridors. With over 200 countries, send-receive combinations exceed forty thousand. Moreover, the variables that drive these cross-border flows hinge on a multitude of factors from migration flows, economic growth, historical connections and more. In short, it’s an explosion of diversity that can be hard to fully comprehend and envision.

In an effort to better understand bi-lateral remittance flows and identify patterns across the various financial connections, McKinsey & Company leveraged data from the World Banks’s 2011 bilateral remittance database that estimates flows across 215 countries and combined that with big data visualization techniques to map global remittance flows. Attached here are a series of graphics that encompass send and receive volumes globally and for seven major regions – Africa, Asia, Australia & Oceania, Europe, Middle East, North America, and South American. 

From this perspective on cross-border remittances, several trends become more visible. Here are a few:

Inter-regional flows: For many large regions with multiple countries, remittance flows concentrate on inter-regional flows among neighbors. For Europe, roughly half of flows occur within EU countries. Asia, Africa, and the Middle East also exhibit high degrees of proximate remittance flows with varying intensity

Diaspora roots: For many large markets, the outbound flows of remittances map closely with the immigration heritage of those markets. U.S.-based flows link strongly to Europe and Latin America. Flows across Asian countries flow heavily into mainland China and Hong Kong given the substantial overseas Chinese populations across the region. Middle Eastern flows reach deeply into Asia.

Concentrated Hubs: While nearly all countries see some remittance activity, there are clear beacons that attract the lion’s share of volume from across the world. These magnet markets – China, India, Mexico, and Philippines – see a torrent of inflows from around the world.

At McKinsey, we find this graphic tool to be an elegant way of distilling the vast complexities into a form more easily understandable. In addition, it can be simply beautiful to contemplate and fascinating to absorb. We are pleased to share it more broadly with the community of researchers, service providers, academics, and policy makers. Please feel free to use these graphics in your work and contact us with any questions.

Finally, the big data visualizations have been made possible through the talented design skills of Joshua Gross, Principal at Planetary (


Dan Ewing

Sr. Expert, McKinsey & Company

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