Migrants from Central America are paying smugglers $1.7 billion a year in the hope of escaping poverty or the chance of a better job in the United States, according to a major study of migration published on Tuesday.
The project by the Migration Policy Institute, World Food Programme and the Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that migrants were paying $2.2 billion in total.
And 92 percent of people surveyed cited economic factors as the main driving force for wanting to leave home - rather than climate disasters, violence or food insecurity.
The report is the latest contribution to the debate about how the U.S. should manage immigration.
The Biden administration is under intense pressure to do more. Last month, Customs and Border Protection revealed that detentions at the border had hit their highest level in 20 years.
The report found that 55 percent of the most recent migrants contracted smugglers to help them, paying out $1.7 billion a year - the biggest chunk of a total of $2.2 billion spent by people trying to find better lives.
'That is an extreme amount of money,' said Sarah Williams, an associate professor of technology at MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and one of the report's authors.
'That $2.2 billion is all paid for by the migrants themselves, so the risks, both in terms of debt and personal risk, is borne by the migrant.'
Economics are the most important factor in prompting people to leave El Salvador, Guatemala and El Salvador, according to the report, based on nearly 5,000 migrant-sending households and an online survey of 6,000 people
A new report by the Migration Policy Institute, World Food Programme and the Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals that Central American migrants pay about $1.7 billion every year to smugglers in search of a better life
The report - based in interviews with nearly 5,000 migrant-sending households and an online survey of 6,000 more across El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras - found that migrants using regular channels spent an average of $4500.
Those traveling by themselves or with a caravan spent $2900.
But using a smuggler raised the cost to about $7500.
Even so, the data show a surge in interest in migrating. During the past two years the number of people who said there were considering