One in Five First-Generation Migrants Want to Keep Moving

by Julie Ray and Neli Esipova

Nearly two-thirds who want to migrate would like to go somewhere other than their home country

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- First-generation migrants -- adults who were born in countries other than the ones they live in -- are more likely than native-born residents to want to migrate permanently, whether that means returning home or heading to another country. Among the 630 million adults worldwide who Gallup estimates would like to migrate permanently to another country, 22% of first-generation migrants say they would like to move, versus 14% of native-born residents.

Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country? % who wuold like to migrate, based on interviews in 146 countries between 2008 and 2010

Gallup's 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.

First-generation migrants' desire to keep moving stands out most in Europe, where overall, 26% say they would like to resettle in another country, versus 17% of native-born residents. This may reflect a greater sense of mobility within Europe and relatively few border restrictions, but also may reflect countries' different approaches to integration.

Differences are much more muted in other regions. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), for example, similar percentages of native-born and first-generation migrants say they would like to move. Within MENA, however, first-generation migrants (20%) in Gulf Cooperation Council countries are more than three times as likely as native-born residents (6%) to want to move. This is interesting given the high percentage of expatriates relative to the national population in some of these countries, and how relatively difficult it is for non-nationals to become citizens.

Next Stop Isn't Necessarily Home

The bulk of first-generation migrants who would like to move to another country do not want to return home. Nearly two-thirds of these migrants name a country other than their country of origin as the country they would like to move to. More than one-third of first-generation migrants who want to move name their country of origin as their next desired destination.


That first-generation migrants would consider uprooting themselves again likely says something about these migrants' willingness to take risks, as does the finding that most first-generation migrants who would like to migrate again would not choose to go home. The latter has implications on the potential for circular migration -- the temporary or permanent return of migrants to their homelands. Countries that would like migrants to return with the skills and knowledge they've gathered abroad need to work harder to lure them home.

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

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.

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