By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
October 11, 2012
Pohnpei, FSM—It is no secret that the governments of some of the U.S. States and territories where FSM migrants have settled have complained about the cost of hosting FSM immigrants; the so called “Compact Impact”.

Just last week, representatives of the U.S. Government Accountability office held a press conference in Guam to answer questions about a nearly year old report on that very subject.


Within three months of the release in GAO report in November 2011 entitled “Compacts of Free Association: Improvements Needed to Assess and Address Growing Migration”, work began on an FSM commissioned survey of FSM citizens living in the U.S. and its territories.

The FSM survey report was released this afternoon. The FSM Public Information Office press release on the survey said that it is a “scientific random sampling of emigrant households in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Hawaii, and various mainland United States cities and regions.”

The contractors for the survey, Francis X, Hezel, SJ, and Michael Levin were quick to point out that the “survey was not undertaken to credit or discredit the claims of the host states or territories for Compact Impact funds.” The footnote to their claim says, “We cannot and do not wish to assess the claims of the states or territories to Compact Impact reimbursement, but we can and will offer an estimate on how many FSM citizens are dependent on government benefits in the three island sites.”

The study was a survey and not a fully fledged census of FSM citizens living in the U.S. and its territories. Just the same, it cited some pretty exact numbers saying that the FSM population living abroad as counted in the survey is 49,840 people including children who were born in the U.S. and its territories. 13,558 of them live in Guam. 4,286 of them live in CNMI. 7,948 of them live in Hawaii and, 24,048 live in the U.S. mainland, the report claims.

Essentially, the survey shows that nearly a third of people from the FSM live in the U.S. and its territories. The survey said that of the 49,840 people living in the U.S., 16,790 of them were born on U.S. soil. It added that no effort was made to distinguish post-Compact and pre-Compact migrants.

It listed FSM average population growth statistics for the last five years for each of the areas covered by the survey. According to the executive summary:
Guam has received 375 new FSM migrants per year and FSM families had 355 births per year.
CNMI has received 80 new migrants per year and there were 80 births on average each year.
Hawaii has registered 450 migrants per year and has 140 births yearly
The U.S. mainland has been getting 1,200 new migrants per year, with a third of them coming from Guam and Hawaii. Migrants there report an average of 555 births per year.

Report authors added the words, “minus whoever is leaving or dying” only to the statistics for Hawaii and it is not clear whether those words also apply to the other regions.

Their summary also said that there is clear evidence of step migration from other places. For instance, a migrant family may have initially emigrated from the FSM to Guam and later to Hawaii. The executive summary reported only step migration to the U.S. mainland. We did not see any reference to step migration amongst any of the other geographic locations in the report itself.

For each of the four geographic areas covered in the survey, the authors of the report listed the six topics they expected to cover in the report. Each section of the comprehensive study and report includes a category for each of the following topics:

household size and composition, educational background of members, and financial status;
major difficulties migrant groups may experience in getting affordable housing, access to health services, remedial education for children, salaried work, etc;
extent to which migrant households depend on welfare programs and state support, in particular housing benefits, unemployment and other direct aid, as well as health benefits for the chronically ill, especially those on dialysis or in chemotherapy;
contributions that migrant households may be making to their adopted homes (by volunteer work or other services) and to their native homes (through remittances and through participation in FSM activities such as elections);
major adjustment problems experienced by migrant communities, especially as indicated by homelessness and crime rates;
degree to which the migrant community appears to have taken on a stable form and become responsible for its own welfare by providing an authority system, a support system, and regulation of its own members.

The report was posted today on the website (www.sboc.fm) of the FSM Office of SBOC [FSM Office of Statistics, Budget and Economic Management, Overseas Development Assistance, and Compact Management]. The report is lengthy and offers a wealth of statistical information and analysis of the statistics it presents, some of it quite surprising.

For example, contrary to the long held and mostly anecdotal belief that FSM migrants live in over-crowded quarters the survey revealed that “the size of the migrant household was rather small in comparison to the FSM.” In FSM the household size according to the 2010 FSM Census ranges from 4.9 in Yap to 6.3 in Chuuk for an overall FSM average of 6.0 people per household. Migrant households ranged in size between 4.0 people in the U.S. mainland and Hawaii, to 5.4 people in Guam (down from 7.2 people 20 years ago.)

The report also suggested that the first signs of the “long awaited ‘brain drain’” have arrived. It said that 5 percent of FSM migrants in Hawaii hold a bachelor’s degree. 6 percent in the U.S. mainland obtained a Bachelor’s degree. Only 4.3 percent of residents in the FSM hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Clarification was not made as to whether the term “resident” included expatriates who were residents in the FSM at the time of the 2010 census.

The amount of reported remittances to family members still living in the FSM seemed to surprise the authors of the report most. The survey showed that only about $3 million in cash and gifts per year [about $60 per FSM migrant] is being sent back to the FSM. They found that migrants are not sending remittances on a regular basis but are instead responding to special requests from FSM family members.

The survey found that “only 10 percent of the households on Guam, 20 percent in Hawaii, 7 percent in CNMI, and 4 percent in the US mainland” claimed to be sending remittances.

Their surprise is understandable. “There is a large disparity between the remittance data in this survey and data collected in FSM. The 2010 FSM Census (Table B 19) records the total yearly remittance value as $14,144,000”, a footnote to the survey report says.

Few of the FSM migrants living in CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii have health insurance while 67 percent of FSM migrants living in the continental U.S. have health insurance.

“The annual income for the average household also increased as one moved from west to east,” the report says. The average household incomes, as recorded in the survey data, were: CNMI $25,450, Guam $24,800, Hawaii $42,150, and U.S. mainland $62,800.”

“In the U.S. mainland, alone of all the sites, there were more cash earners than non-earners among migrants,” the report says.

Other than in Hawaii, access to health care seemed to be low on the list of reasons given for migration. “This survey suggests that, if anything, the magnitude of the burden on the Hawaii health care system has been understated,” the report said despite its earlier claims that it would not credit or discredit the claims of the host states.

The availability of government assistance also figured low on the list of reasons given for migration. Most government assistance plans are offered only to U.S. citizens and are not available to FSM migrants though they are available to their American-born children. “On Guam 58 percent of the households received food stamps; in CNMI 53 percent; in Hawaii 46 percent, and in mainland U.S. 35 percent. Other forms of welfare seem to have had minimal impact on FSM households,” the report said.

Because of the population of FSM migrants is spread amongst numerous jurisdictions they authors of the report were not able to check crime statistics in the continental U.S. Through focus groups in several locations they could anecdotally say that the crime rate for FSM migrants in the continental U.S. was quite low. Arrests in Guam and Hawaii are high but of the 2,700 arrests of FSM people in Hawaii in 2010, all but 218 were for misdemeanors. In Guam, FSM people represent 8.5 percent of the population but in 2010 that population accounted for 63 percent of all the arrests reported on Guam for that year. “On the other hand, the arrests are mostly for the usual ‘payday weekend’ offenses,” the report characterized the offenses and then listed what they meant by their descriptive term: “DWI, assault, theft, and domestic abuse. Most of the violations of law were relatively minor, and sentences were short.”

Again, the survey covers a great deal of information that can in no way be covered comprehensively here. It can be found on the Compact Management Division tab of the SBOC webpage (www.sboc.fm).

On the whole, authors concluded that FSM migrants who settle in the U.S. mainland appear to fare better on the whole than migrants who settle in CNMI, Guam, or Hawaii. But then the distance and accessibility back to the FSM migrants homeland is just one of the tradeoffs.

In a Facebook posting that gave a very short summary of the report over a week ago, Father Francis Hezel turned Horace Greeley’s famous quote around saying, “Go east, young man!”