A third of Americans would consider living abroad in the future

Have you ever thought about walking down a picturesque winding dirt road somewhere in Italy… every single day? Or considered settling down somewhere cheaper, but more exotic … like Ubud? Turns out you’re not alone: 33% of Americans think about living outside the United States for a period of time sometime in the future – even if some of them don’t think it will actually happen. And 5% are making more serious plans to leave, according to new research on migration aspirations.

Researchers from the University of Kent at Brussels and Tufts University in the United States used data from a 2014 survey of 877 U.S. born citizens living in America.

The data found that people had various reasons to want to leave – the top being exploration:

  • 87% wanted to explore the world
  • 51% for retirement
  • 49% to escape a bad/disappointing situation Stateside
  • 48% for work

Whatever their reason, however, researchers found that there was one common factor uniting Americans who were thinking about the idea of leaving the country: they didn’t identify as having a “very strong” sense of national identity.

“When we looked at what underlying factors played a role in Americans’ thinking about migrating, we found that having a less than ‘very strong’ American national identity was an important factor,” said co-researcher Dr. Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels in a release. Other considerations were knowing Americans who had lived abroad and having served in the military – connections which might serve as networks once overseas.

People didn’t actually want to leave the country forever – 49% said they would want to live abroad for less than a year, and 30% imagined sleeping on a hammock in Tahiti (or wherever) for between one and five years. However, 20% envisioned an overseas stay of five years or more.

The number of Americans living abroad has been steadily growing in recent years. In 2016, there were nine million U.S. citizens living abroad – about 3% of the overall population. That number was a significant increase of what the study estimates to be 7.6 million living abroad in 2013 and 6.3 million in 2012. The top two live-abroad places for Americans are Canada and Mexico, followed by Germany, Australia, and Israel.