World

International Migration Desires Show Signs of Cooling

by Neli Esipova and Julie Ray

U.S. still top desired destination

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Worldwide desire to migrate permanently to another country showed signs of cooling between 2007 and 2010, but hundreds of millions of adults would still like to move. Gallup finds 14% of the world's adults -- or about 630 million people -- would like to migrate to another country if they had the chance, down from 16% or more than 700 million.

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Gallup's latest findings on adults' desire to move to other countries are based on a rolling average of interviews with 401,490 adults in 146 countries between 2008 and 2010. The 146 countries represent more than 93% of the world's adult population. The previous findings were based on a rolling average of interviews with 259,542 adults in 135 countries between 2007 and 2009.

The desire to migrate declined mostly in the developing world, with the largest drop in sub-Saharan Africa. Residents in this region remain the most likely worldwide to express a desire to migrate permanently, with 33% of adults saying they would like to move, but this is down from 38% in earlier polling. Desire also faded measurably in Latin America (from 23% to 20%) and in Southeast Asia (from 12% to 9%) between 2007 and 2010.

Yet in other places around the world, desire remained relatively buoyant. Among European Union residents, for example, the percentage of adults who would like to move to another country permanently remained flat at 20%. The 10% of adults in Northern America who would like to migrate also remained unchanged.

U.S. Still Top Desired Destination

Eighteen countries continue to attract more than 70% of the potential migrants worldwide. The United States continues to be the top desired destination for adults who would like to migrate. About 23% of potential migrants -- about 145 million adults worldwide -- name the U.S. as their desired future residence. Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Australia appeal to at least 25 million adults.

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Northern America, which includes the U.S. and Canada, and countries in the European Union continue to be the top draws regionally. Roughly 188 million adults, or about 30% of the total percentage of adults who would like to move worldwide, would like to move to Northern America. About 178 million adults would like to move to a country in the EU. However, the EU has the highest percentage of residents worldwide who would like to move there within the region. Out of 178 million who would like to move to an EU country, about 36 million are from within the region.

Implications

Gallup's worldwide research shows that hundreds of millions still would like to move to other countries permanently if they had the chance, but this desire has dampened between 2007 and 2010. The declining desire to migrate that is evident in some regions could possibly be a byproduct of the global economic downturn, which could have made the idea of leaving one's own country in uncertain economic times too risky to even entertain.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.

Anita Pugliese and Marc Carpenter provided technical assistance for this report.

Survey Methods

Results are based on aggregated telephone and face-to-face interviews with 401,490 adults, aged 15 and older, in 146 countries from 2008 to 2010. The 146 countries surveyed represent 93% of the world's adult population. One can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error for the entire sample, accounting for weighting and sample design, is less than ±1 percentage point. The lower and upper bounds for the projected 630 million adults worldwide who would like to migrate are 618 million and 643 million.

One can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error among those who would like to move to another country and name one of the 18 countries in this analysis is less than ±1 percentage point. The lower and upper bounds for the projected population that would like to move to a country vary: The lower and upper bounds for the projected 145 million adults who would like to move to the United States, for example, are 141 million and 150 million.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.


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