I wrote about this topic previously but have new and surprising data.
- According to a 2021 Pew Research study, 93% of ADULTS with a college degree have traveled internationally, and about 70% of that group have visited 3+ countries.
- Pew found that 90% of American adults whose household income is greater than $80,000/year have traveled internationally.
- About 72% of those with incomes between $30,000 and $80,000 have traveled.
- International travel falls to 48% of those with less than $30,000. (Keep in mind that incomes vary over time – a person may today be retired on a limited income but had a greater income in the past when they traveled.)
- In 2018 (pre-pandemic) between about 7 and 11 million Americans traveled abroad every month (depends on month, more in the summer, for example).
To put that in context, 89% of U.S. adults have a driver’s license.
My perception was that 100% of my peers had traveled internationally – and my perception was spot on.
How many Americans have, at some point, lived in another country?
Could not find an answer to that so produced a broad estimate – it appears that near 1 in 3 residents of the U.S. have lived in another country at some point in their life.
An estimated 15% of U.S. residents were born in another country. For some states, such as California, the percentage is higher, at about 27%.
In any year, about 3% of Americans are living or working abroad (not including military personnel). This group includes persons who work abroad for 6 months, or a few years, and then return. Over time, this cumulatively is a large percentage as new persons replace those who have returned to the U.S. For example, if the rotation in this group is 1/2% per year, that could add up to 10% of the population over 20 years, and more over a longer period of years.
I understand most military personnel will be stationed abroad at least once during the time in the military – about 1 million are stationed abroad each year. As of 2018, about 7% of the adult population of the US was a veteran.
Almost one-half million students study and live abroad each year, as high school exchange students or as college study abroad students. Over a period of time, this adds up cumulatively to a large number of U.S. residents who have lived abroad. Up to 20% of 4-year students that have graduated, have studied abroad. (Note – the # varies by year and has been increasing over time.)
15% + 3% + 7% is 25%. That’s 1 in 4 U.S. residents.
Next, add in those who worked abroad in the past, but have moved back to the U.S., or those who have studied abroad, and this can add 10-15% more to the total over 20 or more years.
Thus, a reasonable estimate is 35% or more of U.S. residents have had experiencing living abroad for some period ranging from a summer to years long trips.
Obviously, there may be overlap between these groups – for example, a foreign-born American resident may do a study abroad in college and then join the U.S. military, and then take a foreign job! My simple estimate would count that person 3 times!
A reasonable guess is at least 1 in 4, and probably 1 in 3 U.S. residents have studied, lived or worked abroad.
UPDATE: I neglected to consider that many of those who lived abroad may have had children who accompanied them during their work assignment or other tasks abroad. I now believe that up 40% of the U.S. population has lived abroad at some point in their life. A staggering figure.
In a globalized world, who do think will move into management positions and grow their career upwards?
A survey of employers found 64% were more likely to give “greater professional responsibility” to those with international experience.
Since that survey encompassed all types of businesses, the percentage is likely much higher in multi-national corporations and businesses that have international sales. In fact, within businesses doing international sales, this figure might approach 100% who will be more likely to give responsibility and promotions to those with international experience.