Americans who leave the country move all over the world

Here is some data on where Americans go when they leave the United States as well as some of the reasons they move:

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

While the United States is the top destination for immigrants worldwide, hosting about three times as many immigrants as runners-up Germany and Saudi Arabia, it’s a paltry 26th in terms of sending immigrants abroad. Our analysis of U.N. data finds that just one American emigrates for every six Indians or four Mexicans.

And unlike emigrants from other countries, Americans go everywhere. We’re the most widely distributed people on the planet. No other nation has as few people concentrated in its top 10 (or top 25, or top 50) destinations, a Washington Post analysis shows.

In part, this wide distribution is probably a legacy of America’s immigrant roots. America is the top destination for migrants from about 40 countries, and many Americans remain linked to their ancestral homelands. It also reflects the wide reach of the U.S. military, as well as civilian organizations such as the Peace Corps and Christian missionaries…

Instead, Klekowski von Koppenfels’s research with Helen B. Marrow of Tufts University shows that a large majority of Americans want to move abroad to explore or have an adventure. Emigration almost always has more than one cause, they say, and some especially common ones are the desire to retire abroad, work abroad and get out of a bad situation at home. However, the desire to explore — “to lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies,” as Kerouac wrote — is the American impulse that dominates.

The “nation of immigrants” is sort of a nation of emigrants? It would be interesting to compare these narratives.

Similarly, given the more limited geographic mobility within the United States in recent years plus the difficulty in collecting data on people who leave the United States, is it possible to compare trends over time on mobility within the country versus mobility abroad? Is one growing or slowing more than the other?

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