Young people most likely to want to move abroad, poll shows

by Ray Clancy on July 18, 2011

Young adults opting to work and live abroad

People’s desire to move to a foreign country is strongly related to their age with more than one in five aged 15 to 24 year olds, saying it is a dream they want to fulfill, according to a new poll.

This desire declines sharply after age 25, about the time that many people start to put down firmer roots and by the age 65 it falls back to just 4%, the survey from Gallup shows.

Single adults (25%) are more than twice as likely as those who are married (11%) to say they would like to move to another country permanently if they had the chance. Age explains some of this, but even among the youngest adults, those who are married are less likely to say they would like to move.

Potential expats and migrants also tend to be better educated, the poll found. They are more likely to have secondary or higher education, with about one in five in each of these two categories saying they would like to move to another country.

This is not the pattern everywhere, however. In Northern America, those with an elementary education or less are more likely than their more educated counterparts to want to move.

People who are more likely to have the means to move are more likely to desire to leave their countries for good. The desire to migrate rises with income, with people in the richest 20% income quintile of their countries the most likely to want to move. This pattern is evident in most regions, but again, Northern America stands out because the poorest income group is the most likely to want to leave.

Adults who are unemployed or employed part time but want to work full time, whom Gallup classifies as underemployed, are nearly twice as likely to want to move as people who are employed at capacity or not in the workforce at all. People who are employed full time for an employer, self employed full time, or employed part time and do not want to work full time are considered employed at capacity.

Across the world, the underemployed are more likely to want to move, although this is true to a lesser extent in Asia and sub Saharan Africa.

Gallup also found that worldwide people’s desire to migrate permanently to another country is showing signs of cooling, but the hundreds of millions of adults who would still like to move, where they would like to go, and who they are have substantial implications for labor forces in countries that send or receive migrants.

The strong relationship between people’s desire to migrate and their age and education reinforces how important it is to study what pushes or pulls these potential migrants before their desires become real brain drain or brain gain, it says.

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