Recent weeks have devoted a lot of attention to the “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) demonstrations and others in the US and around the world. The attention is understandable and the anxiety and anger underlying the actions of the young adults who predominate are also understandable in most locations. In the US, not being able to get a job, being forced to live with your family, feeling that no one older cares enough to help, and similar factors are all at play in the OWS phenomenon. The purpose of the “occupations” is to express that anxiety and anger in a fashion that can grab the attention of the older generations and they certainly have done that.
However, there is another approach that can be taken by a young adult and it is age-old. Ask the Irish. That approach is for a young adult to pack his or her bags and head out for somewhere where opportunities seem to be more plentiful, or simply to get away from the depressing atmosphere at home in the hopes of finding something better eventually. For American young adults, we could call this “Leaving the US” (LUS).
There are undoubtedly many differences in the profiles of those who choose OWS and those who choose LUS, but one superficial, but important, factor stands out. OWS gets the headlines. LUS gets ignored. And yet, our survey results suggest that LUS is a far larger group than OWS.
It may be argued that US adults under 35 are the most likely to have the least holding them back from relocation and that has been reflected in the statistics of most of our IBOPE-Zogby surveys, with the exception of 2009. However, 2011 demonstrated a return to “normal”, although at the highest levels of all the surveys. The statistics on the 25-34 age group planning to relocate indicate that roughly two million (5.1% of 42 million Americans in that age group) are packing their bags. The statistics on the 18-24 age group interested in relocating indicate that there are millions more willing to take the plunge, but it is probably not a bad guess that this group is the least likely to have the money available to do it and least likely to have developed the skills and work experience that can make the difference after relocation.
I think it is a fairly safe assumption that those in the LUS group vastly outnumber those in the OWS group. Why don’t get they any attention at all? The answer is simple and it is the same answer for all age groups surveyed. The LUS group is not a group. It has absolutely no organization and it makes no attempt to create headlines. Americans who choose to relocate do so as the result of millions of households making their decisions independently. This is not a “movement”. This is not a “protest”. It is simply people doing what they choose to do. In that sense, it is truly “All-American”.
In 44 years of working and living globally, I have met many young American foreign residents. Some don’t make it, but most do. I am impressed with them. They come with a lot less money than older adults, but they are far more willing to adapt and are not ashamed to live simpler lives until they get better established. They are innovative and industrious. They take the risks because they see the opportunities. If denied work visas for fear they will take jobs from nationals, many start small businesses and create jobs. It isn’t easy, but they make it work and they have fun doing it. But they aren’t doing it in the US.
Relocation is nothing new. For centuries, young adults have left home to seek a better life. These young Americans seek a better life too. If we want them to find it in America, we had better get to work, right now.
One of the reasons we put up this website was not to enter into any dispute or create any “movement”, but to simply provide the public with an overview of relocation and its adoption by more Americans than most people would ever guess. Although relocators may not be pursuing a “cause” or other socio-political end, they are real people, real Americans, and they should not be ignored.