This brief note at the launch of America Wave is to explain that only a portion of survey data has been posted. As one example, the data on purchase of a property outside the US, but without immediate relocation, is not yet included. Additional data, analysis, and commentaries will be posted and the best way to keep up-to-date with changes is to subscribe using the sign-up form on the right-hand side of each page. We can assure you that we hate unwanted spam as much as you do, so your email information will not be shared, other than as required by law, or used for purposes other than informing you of news directly relevant to this website.
Each of our nine surveys, whether short or long, begins with a single “gateway” question. The survey is made of a statistically-valid sample of the adult American population. The great majority of Americans are not thinking of relocation or property purchase outside the US, so we first must identify those who are so interested.
Since our first survey in 2005, this question has been changed, primarily by being expanded. In the beginning, we focused on relocators only. Later, we began adding responses for people who were interested in property purchases, but not yet relocation. As we gained experience, we settled on the question below, have used it, and will continue to use it. Here it is.
Are you planning to relocate to another nation for more than two years for reasons other than the requirements of the military, the government, or your job?
There are two important aspects of this question. The first is “for more than two years” as we did not want to attract people who were planning extensive travel for a year or who were “studying abroad” for a semester and so forth.
The second, “for reasons other than the requirements of the military, the government, or your job” is the most critical and the most frequently forgotten by many people reading our survey results. We did this purposely as we are only interested in people who are voluntarily relocating or purchasing property. If our intention was to get the highest numbers possible, we would have left those words out of our question. The numbers would have been much more impressive, but that was not our interest.
That point allows us to say that the Americans we have found who are interested in relocating or purchasing outside the US are doing so voluntarily and not because someone else is requiring them to do so. This helps support our argument that overseas relocation is not the result of a “movement” or any other outside pressure, but the result of millions of individual households making individual decisions. This makes the “wave” of relocation all that much more impressive and it also explains why so few people in the US are aware of it. That definitely includes most journalists in all media. That explains why the majority of articles in the general US media focus on retirees seeking warmer climates, despite the simple fact this group, while certainly present, represents a small minority of the total of Americans relocating.
It starts with one man, Bob Adams. Bob was CEO and President of New Global Initiatives (NGI) in Maryland in the US, a firm providing humanitarian assistance in nations in need. He had more than four decades of professional experience in economic development in some four dozen of the less developed nations of the world. He was also approaching his 60th birthday. He knew from those decades of experience that life in many nations was cheaper than in the US, as well as warmer than Maryland, and more fun. With that in mind, he went looking for a nation where he could enjoy these benefits in the future, should he ever find the time to retire (doubtful though that might be to those who know him).
He found his new home in Panama. Discovering that nearly all the “Panama websites” of the day were purely commercial and unbalanced, sometimes ridiculously so, in their presentation of the nation, he set up RetirementWave.com as a non-profit, informational website on Panama. Without any advertising or promotion, his “membership” climbed into the thousands. As he answers all his email himself and meets with members visiting Panama, if they so request, he became increasingly familiar with the different kinds of Americans relocating. In the process, he realized he had misnamed his site as many of his members were not retirees, but younger people or older people intending to set up a business or otherwise continue to work.
He set out to learn more about Americans relocating anywhere in the world and quickly found there were no statistics, other than guesswork, available. Through NGI, he contracted with the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC, a research group focused on migration globally, to do a “desk study”, a review of existing research on American relocation. There was none. So he further contracted with them to do a more in-depth study, including focus groups in Mexico and Panama.
All these efforts yielded very little information that could be considered valid for the total population of relocators. It is simply impossible to find every American living in another nation and then draw a valid sample. So Bob turned his attention to Americans who had not yet relocated, but who were potentially headed in that direction and the first survey of the US population was professionally undertaken on behalf of NGI by IBOPE-Zogby, formerly Zogby International, a highly experienced US-based opinion survey firm, in 2005. All the other surveys, including those referred to here, stem from that beginning and were conducted by the same team of professionals.
From thereon, it’s a long story, but we have continued to follow this topic in surveys. Although NGI is now closing down in the US, Bob and his associates are now active in Latin America. Bob has set up America Wave, Inc. as a corporation and a home to all the surveys.
Our surveys are a bit different than others. Most surveys you read in the news include 800 to 1200 respondents. Once in awhile, they cover 1,500 to 2,000, but that is uncommon as these lower numbers provide reasonable accuracy and margins of error. Our surveys have included from 2,000 to nearly 25,000 respondents to provided higher levels of accuracy and also allow us to look more closely at sub-groups of the total population, something other surveys do as well, but with much smaller numbers, less detail, and less accuracy.
We have also done very detailed surveys of where people want to go, why they want to relocate, what they expect to find, and a long list of other factors. We did not do that with the ninth survey as that is expensive and, frankly, we did not expect to find the dramatic changes that we indeed found. If there is sufficient interest from people like yourself, we may do additional surveys to provide the details that interest many people and help fill out the “profile” of relocators.
From the beginning, we have had to innovate. We were doing something that had not been done before. We were looking at a topic from the viewpoint of the 21st century, not the 16th, 18th, or 20th. There are many definitions of “migrant”, but traditionally it referred to someone who was moving to another nation to seek citizenship. After all, if you were going to spend weeks on a leaky wooden ship to start a new life elsewhere, you probably assumed it was for the rest of your life.
Today, it is very common for people from the US and elsewhere to move to other nations, but with no intention of giving up their citizenship. Although they may move for an indefinite period of time and that period may be the rest of their lives, they are not traditional migrants. They are Americans who have “relocated” to another nation, but they remain Americans.
They have always existed, but never before has it been so comparatively cheap, fast, and easy to relocate as it has become in the last couple decades. As we often point out, it’s not simply a matter of the Communications Revolution (the Web, email, etc.) making it very easy for folks to remain in contact with their families and friends back home, it is also a matter of the Transportation Revolution. It’s not that we move faster these days than we did ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. It is that we can now move nearly anywhere we like. The end of the Soviet Union and its “empire” and the changes in China post-Mao have opened the entire planet to relocators and that has had a huge impact as well, although it is rarely noted.
Although we have been the only group to survey Americans on the subject of relocation, there are other polls conducted by the Gallup firm that are indirectly related, but relevant. They approach it from a different angle. Here is their equivalent of our “gateway” question:
Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently [our emphasis] to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country?
By using the word “permanently”, this is really a question concerning migration, not relocation. In addition, it offers no choice for those planning such a permanent move or at different levels of interest. Finally, it uses the word “ideally”, thus removing all constraints and separating it from the reality faced by the respondents. It is a perfectly legitimate question, but quite radically different from ours.
However, the results are of great interest and even supportive of our findings, if indirectly.
Gallup asked this question in 135 nations for one series of polls and 146 nations in another series implemented from 2007 through 2010, so this is not a survey of Americans only. They divide their results into eight global regions. One of those regions is Northern America (Canada and the US).
Of the eight global regions, in six of them the percentage answering that they would want to migrate had fallen. Only two regions had remained the same over time: Europe and Northern America. Indeed, in two other regions, South Asia and Southeast Asia, the percentage had fallen lower than the Northern America percentage.
In Northern America, fully 10% of respondents answered that they would like to move permanently. When we asked the folks at Gallup if there was a difference in the responses of Canadians and Americans, they said, no, they were both 10%.
In our minds, this may be even more surprising then our results! You can see a summary of the Gallup results by clicking here.
Good question! When Bob first wrote of the findings from the last 2007 survey in Barron’s, the highly regarded US financial publication, and, as a result, was interviewed by Erin Burnett on CNBC, there was a flurry of interest. Oddly enough, it was not from media in the US, but almost entirely from Asia, Singapore and India primarily. It seemed to be of passing interest to the American media and business world, but nothing more. We accepted that, of course, and went about our business, unrelated to these surveys.
We now have a huge mountain of data from these nine surveys of a total of more than 120,000 Americans over a period of years. It is the only database of its kind. Some day, when relocation becomes of greater interest, we want at least some of this information to be available as it is the only “historical record”, so to speak, on this topic.
Should America Wave and the information it provides create greater interest, we will consider additional surveys in far greater detail as we have done in the past. For the moment, we simply offer this site and its information to the global Internet public.
Thank you for your patience with this long explanation and thank you for visiting our site!