Friday, January 18, 2013

American's reasons for leaving US are changing

Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack
The US is a great country. The freedoms there are wonderful, the people are warm, the "can do" attitude is great (you'd be surprised how American the "can do" attitude is) and when there's a natural disaster in the world, Americans are often the reaching deep into their pockets to help others. For all of the negative press the US receives, there are a lot of good things about the country.

And then there are the other bits.


It used to be that Americans were moving to other countries for adventure or love. Now the  motivation to be an expat seems to be changing. I'm getting a lot of email from people saying they can't find a job or they're worried about the future of America. In fact, as far as I can tell, US expats are now starting to feel the push factors of emigration far more than in the past. 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. And why would they? Well, here are ten reasons.

  1. For the first time ever, the average Canadian is wealthier than the average American.
  2. Half of all Americans are now low income or in poverty.
  3. For the first time since the Great Depression, more Mexicans are leaving the US than entering it.
  4. The percentage of young Americans graduating from university has dropped from first to twelfth place in the world (pdf).
  5. The American dream of upwards mobility turns out to be true in just about every other major country except the US.
  6. The US has gone from one of the developed world's lowest infant mortality rates to one of the highest.
  7. US median income has fallen 7% in the past decade.
  8. Personal bankruptcies have quadrupled since 1980 (pdf).
  9. The US is again threatening to default on its debt and ruin its AAA credit rating.
  10. And let's talk about violence.


US versus OECD nations deaths from violent crimes
Source: KIERAN HEALY

No matter how you slice it, the US doesn't look as nice as it once did ... unless you live in the echo chamber of the US. If you don't get a chance to see the rest of the world first hand, it might be hard to appreciate just how nice it is. Yes, here in Europe you'll find that you live in a smaller flat, but at three times the population density, that's to be understood. Yes, here in Europe you'll find that you pay more in taxes, but when you add in the cost of your university degree, medical care and all of the other costs that are merged directly into much of Europe's taxes, I'm hard-pressed to say that your costs are that much lower in the US.

Ah, but you argue, I heard that average income in the US has been going up! Sure, sit down next to one of the Koch brothers and you are both, on average, multi-billionaires. That doesn't buy you a cup of coffee. And it turns out that the "average income" growth has seen the wealthiest 1% of Americans taking in 93% of income growth. You're still getting poorer.

One person who wrote to me has been out of work for three years. Another person is graduating college with debt and no job prospects. Frankly, I wouldn't have believed this a decade ago, but others are noticing this trend. People aren't just seeking adventure, they're trying to escape.
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