Of those who are in the planning stages for relocation, the statistics show two dramatic shifts when divided by age group.
The first is that all age groups, except those 18-24, whose numbers collapsed and were too small to appear in this sample as had been the case with those over 70 in 2009, have jumped above the comparable results in 2007 and 2009.
The second, even more obvious, is that those 25-34 have risen to an astonishing level of 5.1%, roughly one in 20. That is an unprecedented upward shift from all our surveys for all age groups.
This is the first of two points I think need emphasis in this post. The 25-34 age group’s primacy is, in my mind, both bad news in the short term for the US, but potentially good news in the long term. Whether that potential is realized cannot be known now, but it cannot be ignored.
This age group is made up of adults and that must never be forgotten by those, like myself, who are much older. But these adults are better educated than their parents and grandparents, more widely experienced in many respects, and far more mobile. They include many who will be the successful entrepreneurs who create the new products, services, and businesses of the future.
I would suggest that those who are willingly to pack their bags and leave their home nation are also those who are the “risk-takers” and include many of the most creative people in US society. They may only be 5.1% of their age group, but their percentage of those in their age group with this sort of motivation and outlook is likely to be much, much higher. No nation is well-served if these are the people who choose to leave. They are among the most energetic and productive segments of any society, anywhere.
However, this age group is also one of the most “globalized”. For them the global perspective comes much more naturally than it does for older age groups, many of whom are still struggling to understand the changes in the global environment, if they are truly trying at all. This age group has lived those changes and knows them as normal, just part of life. They do not sit and reminisce about the “good old days”; they are looking and working to create their own “good new days” and that requires dealing with today’s reality and trends.
They also represent great potential for the US in years and decades to come. By virtue of their overseas experience, they will know global markets better than their age peers at home. They will pick up new skills, new understandings, new ideas as they work in other nations. They will create businesses overseas that may well be supplied by American firms. They will work for American firms in other nations and benefit the US in that manner. Many will eventually return to the US, bringing their talents and experience gained elsewhere back to benefit their home nation.
I have had Indian friends for years. Many came to the US to study and stayed to become citizens, work, and start businesses that have greatly benefited the US. They came looking for opportunities they could not find at home. Now middle-aged, many are returning to India or seriously considering it for exactly the same reason. They are looking for opportunities.
I have met many of these younger American adults who have relocated overseas. The overwhelming majority are not migrating; they are not seeking citizenship outside the US. They are relocating and that is a major difference between them and my Indian friends. As long as that is the case, they can return to the US at any time and assist in building their home nation directly. Retaining their US citizenship is a very positive sign. God forbid we ever give them reason to reconsider that.
Now on to the second point I would like to offer at this post.
There are reasons for dividing up the total respondents into the age groups shown in the graph above. They roughly represent different “stages” of life in the American context. However, two of them are especially small: those 18-24 and those 70 and older. Due to their comparatively small size, let’s combine each of them with their “neighbor” age group. Then we have 18-34, 35-54 and 55 and older.
These three groups are not equal in size (35-54 is the largest at an average 41%, followed by 55 and older at an average 33%, followed by 18-34 at an average 26%). They don’t change the “story” of the first graph, but they do represent a more “balanced” view by replacing the visual impact of the two small groups at either end, but still including them in the totals.
To me, the most noticeable effect is to emphasize the relative “youth” of those most likely to be at the planning stage in both 2007 and 2011, but also the fact that 2009 was a bad year. Our survey was done in March of that year when not only was the housing crisis well-known, but the stock market hit lows; the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 6,700 for example. The mood was dark and all three age groups were equally depressed. The crisis continues, the mood has certainly not lightened much, if at all, but now more and more people are looking for opportunity where they can find it and, for a growing number, that is outside the US.
And if you think the 18-24 age group is now completely out of the picture, I suggest you take a look at their interest level.
Younger adults have come roaring back in 2011, but you can also see that the middle-aged and older adults have dramatically increased as well. In the final analysis, although age is a factor, this is a phenomenon that goes beyond mere age. It is a generalized social trend at all age levels. But its impact is especially notable among those Americans most critical to America’s future.