The fact that large numbers of Americans have emigrated to other countries is not often openly acknowledged because immigration of foreigners to the United States has always received more media attention. However, American emigrants provide many of their adopted countries with productive new citizens who strengthen their new homes while reducing the number of the talented and skilled people living and working in the United States.
Americans have always found reasons to leave the United States for other countries. As early as the days of the
The first settlers of British North America were all immigrants accustomed to the idea of relocating. Consequently, when many of them found their new country and its inhabitants too different culturally or too hostile to feel comfortable, they returned to their European homelands. As late as the early decades of the twentieth century, this trend continued. Between 1900 and 1930, about 30 million people immigrated to the United States, and 10 million people emigrated. Between 1931 and 1940, another 600,000 people left the country, while it was being devastated by the
After 1957, the U.S. government stopped keeping emigration records. Because Americans living abroad have not been required to register with American consulates since that date, the numbers of Americans who have emigrated are difficult to tabulate. Nevertheless, because America is home to people from 168 different countries, it is not surprising that second- and third-generation Americans have occasionally chosen to go to their forebears’ homelands and put down roots in places as varied as the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Panama, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.
Since the era of the Revolutionary War, in the late eighteenth century Americans have found much in Europe to lure them, particularly the compatible cultures and societies. Most early American citizens were themselves only first- or second-generation Americans, so they were not far removed from their ancestral homelands. English settlers went back to England, French settlers to France, and German settlers to German states. During the late nineteenth century, 35 percent of the
Many individual American writers and artists felt a special cultural pull to Europe. Some scholars attribute this to a “colonial complex”–an attitude that the Continent, with its long cultural history and achievements, was undeniably superior in most ways to the “upstart” new nation that had been hewn out of a primitive land. Before the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), when the first American
Wars disrupted many European countries through much of the nineteenth century, making parts of them less attractive destinations for Americans wishing to emigrate. The onset of the U.S. Civil War of the 1860’s and the upheavals among European governments kept Europe in turmoil for much of the century. However, as European visual artists continued to develop intriguing new styles and techniques,
After World War I, some Americans were attracted to French and British receptiveness to Americans with artistic, musical, and literary talent. Writers such as
The aftermath of World War II found many emigrant American artists, jazz and rock musicians, and writers continuing to choose Europe. American fashion designers were particularly attracted to the famed French and Italian fashion houses, where they hoped their working and studying would enhance their own credentials. Some American
During the early nineteenth century, freed American slaves were allowed, in fact, encouraged to emigrate to Africa’s west coast. The
W. E. B. Du Bois (holding cane) with Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah in 1962. Never fully comfortable in the United States, the distinguished African American scholar and socialist activist emigrated to Ghana, the first black African colony to gain its independence from European colonial rule, when he was in his nineties. When he was refused a new American passport shortly before he died, he and his wife became Ghanaian citizens. However, Du Bois never renounced his American citizenship.
Cultural and language restrictions have been among the reasons that American emigration to Asian countries has been limited. Some Asian countries have also had immigration policies that exclude foreigners. Even as British were nationals making homes in many Asian countries during the era of the British Empire, Americans were not inclined to follow suit in any large numbers.
Before the U.S. Civil War, many
In later decades, gay and lesbian Americans, opponents of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and people seeking a better
Americans who have emigrated to Canada have tended to be well educated and under the age of forty. They are generally skilled and speak English–both traits that make them highly eligible for
For potential American emigrants, Mexico
Before the late twentieth century, most of the emigrants were older Americans living on fixed incomes. In the United States, many of these people would have been living close to the poverty level, but in Mexico they were comparatively well off. For example, it has been estimated that American retirees can maintain standards of living in Mexico equivalent to levels about 50 percent higher than those their incomes would afford them in the United States.
Because American retirees who relocate to Mexico generally settle in communities in which other American expatriates have already settled, they generally find English spoken almost as much as Spanish, and local businesses cater to American tastes. Transitions to living in Mexico thus may become as comfortable as relocating to another American community, with the additional advantages of much lower rent and medical care costs. Between 1990 and 2000, the numbers of Americans living in Mexico grew by 84.3 percent. By 2001, more than 75,000 American retirees were living in Mexico, and all American-born residents made up 63.2 percent of
Anhalt, Diana. A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico, 1948-1965. Santa Maria, Calif.: Archer Books, 2001. Discusses the Americans who moved to Mexico during the McCarthy era to escape political persecution. Campbell, James T. Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005. New York: Penguin Books, 2007. Although this book is primarily about African American travelers in Africa, portions of the book also discuss the motivations of African Americans who have permanently emigrated to Africa. These motivations have ranged from nostalgia for the African past to religious to economic reasons. Finifter, Ada W. “American Emigration.” Society 3, no. 5 (July, 1976): 30-36. Examines the reasons why some Americans emigrate. These reasons have included general dissatisfaction with the American political system and feelings of being marginalized because of holding unpopular political views. Gaines, Kevin. American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. Examines how African Americans sought freedom from the discrimination experienced in the United States by settling in the newly independent Ghana. Tzouliadis, Tim. The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia. New York: Penguin Books, 2008. Well-researched and well-written discussion of the brutal conditions in the Soviet Union experienced by Americans who went there during the years of the Great Depression.
Canada vs. United States as immigrant destinations
Gay and lesbian immigrants
Universal Negro Improvement Association