Unexpected Connections: 10 Oddest Economic Indicators

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Musician Wyclef Jean (l) passes out $50 Western Union gift cards to fans at an event in Los Angeles. Western Union earnings help to measure migration trends. Kevin Parry/WireImage/Getty Images

For millions of migrant workers worldwide, Western Union is the fastest, simplest and most reliable way to send money to family and friends back home. The company, which launched the telegram industry in 1851, is so popular with migrant workers that Western Union's earnings reports are one of the most accurate reflections of global migration trends.

Back in 2003, for example, Western Union made more than half of its earnings from migrant workers in the U.S. sending money home to countries like Mexico and El Salvador. By 2013, only 30 percent of Western Union's revenue originated in the U.S. Instead, the company saw a significant increase in money transfers from emerging economies like Brazil, Chile and Malaysia [source: Jordan]. Since many migrant workers lack legal documentation, Western Union records are the next best thing to census data for determining migration trends worldwide.