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Monday, January 21, 2013

Is U.S. Emigration Changing?

Overseas Exile has a very good post up about U.S. emigration (Americans leaving the U.S.)  He is arguing that what was once a phenomenon almost entirely about "pull" (the attraction of other countries) it is now also about "push."

"Emigration for US expats used to be about adventure, love, or a new job abroad. More and more it seems to be about Americans trying to get out."

I think he's right though it is impossible to get any hard data about U.S. emigration because the U.S. doesn't  track it nor do they make any effort like the French have to learn more about its citizens living in other countries and their reasons for leaving and for staying abroad - the "sojourners" versus the "settlers."  There are more of the latter than Americans in the homeland would like to admit.

In addition the U.S. census does not include American civilians living abroad which means that the United States of America has no idea how many citizens it really has.

Finally in all my research I have only come across one serious study on recent American emigrants, Americans Abroad:  A Comparative Study of Emigrants from the United States by Dashefsky et al, which is a great read but since it was published in 1992, it is a bit outdated.

Nonetheless, if you live abroad for an extended period of time and you maintain some contact with places and institutions where the newly arrived American might show up,  you can get a feel for trends.

The adventurers are still around but these days you hear more and more about the "push" factors Overseas Exile talks about:  high unemployment, shrinking wages, bankruptcies, debt, and less upward mobility.  I would add to the list the search for a more family-friendly country (a safer place to raise kids  and better school systems), better social safety net,  and opportunity (often cited by those headed for Asia).

Should Americans in the homeland be worried about this?  That's not for me to say but I think it would be prudent of them to at least look into it.


Anonymous said...

I would go to canada or other a us citizen it is damned near Impossible. Having a foreign spouse is not my situation, as it is yours.

Christopher Mark Perez said...

One small data point supporting some of the ideas put forth here. Reasons my wife and I sold our house and moved to Paris include -

1 - I was laid off after 30 years in hi-tech with few job prospects in the US - so I took an early retirement

2 - The cost of health care in the US is, how shall we say?, extreme. My unemployment insurance barely covered the COBRA health care costs, _just_ for the monthly premium. We still had to pay too much out of pocket until the high deductibles were met.

3 - Corporate "leaders" are in many cases too narrowly focused on the value of their stock options vesting now at the expense of long term business.

4 - The only measure of value in the US is price. There is no value placed on the quality of thought or idea, or one's ability to be creative, except as it generates money.

5 - Violence in the US is, how shall we again say it?, extreme. The TV/Radio/Culture tells us constantly that we're sick, and not worthy of anything, unless we buy the very thing being pushed on us. Political ideas, pharmaceuticals, religion, products, services... and protection from "the bad guys" (from whichever bogyman is being offered for whichever cause is being promoted at the time).

People seldom think of advertising or narrowly restricted public discourse as violence, but try living in a place where you're not preyed upon constantly by the Lords of Business or Politics and you'll experience what I mean.

6 - Then there is the all too real issue of personal safety. Gun violence in the US is, how shall we really put it?, extreme. Living in France, I know from the facts and figures of reality, not some NRA-generated wing-nut idea, that my wife and I are five times! safer living here than we were in the US.

Enough? I could go on and on...

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@anonymous, Look a little further. I recommend Curtis Poe's blog for how to go about it. I can also say that I meet Americans here all the time who are happily installed in France and do not have French spouse's. They found a way. It is possible - do not be discouraged.

@Christopher, Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience. Yes, that is exactly what I'm hearing.

These are also reasons people don't immigrate to the US. I was talking to my Portuguese plumber yesterday and he said that the number one reason he wouldn't even think of going to the US (and he has many relatives who have left for Canada) is safety. For him personal safety and security trumps the opportunity every time. I assured him that in any case the opportunity wasn't what it was....

Christopher Mark Perez said...

@Victoria - Indeed, the opportunity is not longer what it used to be.

In 2012, 21million jobs were shipped "offshore" out of the US. 23million jobs were lost, in total, last year.

The work is available, but only if you follow the jobs as they are all sent to "low cost regions". Even if you could follow the job market, you'd be paid a fraction of what you used to be in the US.

Thank you NAFTA, GATT, and for US participation in the WTO. Though, in truth, companies have been shipping jobs overseas for many decades. It's only been in the past decade as Wall Street Greed has reached such incredible levels that the offshoring activities have so clearly exceeded the onshored work. It seems that certain corporate execs fervently believe that intellectual property is "stateless" and can be moved anywhere they want to put it, in spite of US Government regulation.

So, yes, opportunities are not what they used to be.

Christophe said...

@ Christopher Perez
As an immigrant to the US, and currently living there, I agree with most of what you say.

However, I am so lucky to work in a mid to large size company where #3 and #4 are false, and where we have great health insurance. The long term view from the corporate leadership is very important. They work hard at maintaining the values that make the company the way it is and a great place to work for. My company has great leaders. And innovation is core. I like the workplace, much better than my experience in France.

I wish more people would be inspired by what works in some countries and apply it at home to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, arrogance, history and other factors prevent that from happening.