The Biggest Reason Americans Want To Leave the Country (It’s Not Money)

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Happy couple in Barcelona
Maridav /

Do you eat, drink and sleep red, white and blue, straight to your star-spangled core? Some Americans can’t imagine ever leaving their homeland. But others dream of a relaxing retirement in Italy or sunning on a beach in Mexico.

According to a recent survey, conducted by real estate website Home Bay in conjunction with Allied Van Lines, just 63% of Americans say they like where they live. That’s down from 80% in 2022.

Many of those people want to stay in the USA, simply moving to a different city or state. But according to the survey results, if given the option, 26% of Americans would prefer to move to a different country entirely.

It’s no surprise some Americans are ready to leave, considering that the U.S. lags other developed countries in quality of life rankings based on broad access to quality education, health care, employment, environmental quality and other tangible and intangible factors. But some of the reasons cited in the survey may surprise you.

Here’s a look at what those would-be expats say about why they’d pack up and move.

1. Better quality of life

Happy older couple dancing in the kitchen
Perfect Wave /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 40%

The biggest reason survey respondents gave for wanting to leave the country was for a better quality of life. What exactly does that mean? U.S. News & World Report ranks countries worldwide for their quality of life and looks at such factors as broad access to food, housing, education, health care and employment, noting that countries that score high are seen as treating their citizens well through all phases of life. According to that research, Sweden, Norway and Canada are the three best countries for those seeking a top-notch quality of life.

2. To get a fresh start

Young woman renter packing up to move house
Dmytro Zinkevych /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 38%

Starting fresh can be irresistible, whether it means simply moving across town or ac,oss the globe. Small things, such as local attractions and food specialties, can be new and exciting, as can larger intangibles. Of all the items on this list, this might be the one that is the most individual, because a fresh start means different things to different people. It’s also undeniable — there’s no guarantee of better health care or a lower cost of living in a new country, but you’ll surely get a fresh start just by picking up and moving.

3. Lower cost of living

Young couple saving up for a down payment on a house.
Kaspars Grinvalds /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 35%

Depending on where you live, the U.S. can be quite expensive. So it’s not surprising this reason scored so highly. But other countries’ conditions are as varied as those of U.S. states. You’re not going to find a cheaper cost of living in Monaco, for example, but you might in Mexico, which made Travel & Leisure’s 2022 list of eight of the cheapest countries for retirees. Ecuador, Costa Rica, Portugal, Panama, Vietnam, Montenegro and Colombia also made the list.

4. Better health care

Senior man getting blood pressure check from health care provider
Sorapop Udomsri /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 34%

Health care is, of course, a vital concern to many — and the U.S. doesn’t score well in this area. A 2022 report from independent research group The Commonwealth Fund notes that the U.S. spends more on health care, both per person and as a share of GDP, than any other high-income country but America still has the lowest life expectancy at birth and the highest rate of people with multiple chronic diseases. Ouch.

5. Safer

Happy mom and daughter
DisobeyArt /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 32%

If you’re going to go to all the trouble of moving to another country, naturally, you want to be safe, whether from crime, terrorism or the chance of war. The Institute of Economics and Peace prepares an annual ranking of the world’s safest countries called the Global Peace Index. Sadly, the U.S. came in 131st. The top three countries for safety are Iceland, Denmark and Ireland, in that order.

6. To see other places (tie)

Vatican City
Vasily Makarov /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 31%

This one’s hard to argue with. Whether you’re born in a tiny town or a big city, there’s something different out there and the adventure of seeking it is one of the joys of travel. But not everyone has the money, interest or opportunity to see the world. A 2021 Pew Research Center study revealed that 27% of Americans have never traveled abroad.

6. Better food (tie)

woman holding taco
Marcos Castillo /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 31%

The 50 nifty United States definitely serve up diverse food, from Tex-Mex and Philly cheesesteaks to Maine lobster. American food is hard to define, but it’s not all McDonald’s despite the stereotypes. Still, 31% of respondents who said they prefer to move abroad cited better food as a reason.

8. Sick of the U.S.

Unhappy business woman
Dusan Petkovic /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 30%

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans say they want to move abroad simply because they’re sick of the U.S. As with the 38% who are moving for a fresh start, this reason is tough to define. Those who want to move may be sick of the high cost of living, crime, health-care issues or, really, any of the other items on this list. And that’s going to vary by person. If you’re extremely wealthy, you can probably buy your way out of most of the reasons cited while the rest of us … not so much.

9. Better work-life balance (tie)

Man on a hammock
mimagephotography /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 27%

Many things about the American workplace have changed since the coronavirus pandemic, with the percentage of home-based workers nearly tripling from 2019 to 2021. But work-life balance is more than work location, as other countries show. The Dutch enjoy free daycare and rarely work overtime, for example, and Norwegians work 20% fewer hours than Americans. Who wouldn’t want to get that kind of a deal?

9. Better people (tie)

Person lending a helping hand
Vitaliy Mateha /

Share of respondents preferring to move abroad who cited this reason: 27%

Better people? Now, that’s truly in the eye of the beholder. Twenty-seven percent of respondents who prefer to move abroad are hoping to find better humans awaiting them in their new home country. We can’t objectively judge if that’s true — one person’s “better person” is another’s overly friendly neighbor. But here’s an interesting twist: Scientific American recently reported that people in the U.S. tend to think they are more competent than they actually are when it comes to various abilities and traits.

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