I think you might be missing a few points here that I believe are important:

the US is the largest country with English as the first and official language. And most first worlders speak English well enough to work in English. Sure, everyone in Scandinavia speaks English, but to really integrate you still need to speak the local language.

The snarky comment you mentioned about the US really being first world: I'm in my 3rd year of a temporary move to NYC and am constantly shocked by how terrible the infrastructure is in this country. In fact, it's so bad, that I am reminded of my trips into much less developed countries.

And thirdly, you speak about recently developed suburbs of Europe reproducing the older suburbs of the US. I'm reading your comment as inferring what is as a direct line to what people want. But just because that's how it turned out it doesn't that's what people actually want. It might just be what ended up happening as a local maximum. The US suburbs are financially held afloat by the wealth generated in the - as you say - "crammed" urban centers and aren't sustainable: neither economically nor environmentally.

Additionally I would like to ask what you mean by "When Americans experience the inconvenience of Europe" ?

I've never lived in a less convenient place than the US. Every government system I interact with seems to be actively hostile and in the best case needlessly cumbersome (and I'm from Germany: not a place known for little bureaucracy!). On top of that the aforementioned infrastructure is so bad that everyday things like public transit, quality of built of basically everything from furniture to buildings, up to long distance travel is so cumbersome that I do wonder why I'm here.

Lastly you mention Texas: Low taxes and cheap living sure does attract a lot of people. But in a race to the bottom with low taxes nobody wins, unless you want to argue for privatizing everything, of course.

I've read a lot of your stuff and this is the first time you seem to be too infatuated with the US to think a bit deeper about what might be going on here and disagree pretty fundamentally with you.

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Jul 21, 2022·edited Jul 21, 2022


I think Ilya Somin's idea was that in foot voting people behave more rational and get informed.

I also thought about countries to move. The US's GDP/capita is attractive. Switzerland, Ireland etc. can keep up. Other indices seem less in favour of the US (see e.g. Freedomhouse). E.g. Germany seems attractive for its apparent moral development (openness to immigrantion, less military adventures, certain liberalizations) and thus taxes seem to cause less harm there. The US seems to respect certain rights more (free speech/hearing, self-defense). I wonder what movers in the poll care about most and whether they are informed about conditions in less popular „fringe“ countries like e.g. Ireland, Denmark, Slovenia etc.

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I'd like to propose "US cultural dominance", for lack of a better word, as an additional explanation.

A few examples:

a) Most Europeans know more about US politics than they know about the politics of their own neighboring countries. (German readers: What are some current political controversies in France/Austria/Denmark? What about current controversies in the US?)

b) If there's anything happening in the US, culturally, then sooner rather than later it happens elsewhere in the (western) world: see BLM protests in European countries that have a history of race relations totally different from the US.

c) Many Europeans might even be said to identify with on of the two American parties, usually (but not always) with Democrats.

d) Some Europeans even read the opinions of American university professors on US campus policies and the like!

e) This is on top of the American dominance in the entertainment industry.

I think it's nearly impossible that being this involved in American issues (life?) would not make it easier to imagine emigrating there.

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I haven’t seen it mentioned by other comments: the US produces entertainment for most first world countries and in most of that entertainment the upper class American standard of living are amplified. Nevertheless it’s true that a good chuck of US population has better household income (even PPP) than EU but I think at the lower end it’s worst. So depending from where you are from in the expectation of the income distribution relative to local standard of living it might make more or less sense to move to the US vs staying in the EU.

I wonder why Australia isn’t more popular?

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Using the EU as a whole as a comparator is arguably misleading. It includes countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Greece and many more who are anything but "1st world" if we define 1st world as having a living standard on par (or greater) than countries like Germany, Netherlands, Austria etc.

A lot of EU members were communist as late as 35 years ago, and even southern countries like Spain were legit third world in the 50s, 60s and arguably even as late as the 1970s.

The real test is how many Germans, Dutch or Austrians (or Danes, Swedes etc) would want to move to the USA. My guess is not that many.

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It would be interesting to see what the responses were if in addition to open borders, the potential destinations were also free of their welfare states as the two are mutually exclusive in the long run.

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Dr Caplan

All of the responses to your questionnaire seem to be expressed rather than demonstrated preferences. I severely discount expressed preferences.

Economics Joke No. 1:

Economist 1: (While walking past a Porsche dealership) Man, I wish I had one of those Porsche sports cars.

Economist 2: Obviously not!

Consequently, I believe that the number of adult US citizens living in the US who would prefer to live in the EU is close to 0% and not the 13% reported in your poll


Bill Drissel

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Dear Mr Caplan, what's up with the twitter polls?

What was your sample Bryan?

People who read my tweets and can be bothered to respond!

Robyn Hanson's always at it too. Your both seem super rational and rigorous for other stuff..

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It would have been interesting to poll readers based off their SES. My impression is that the US has less of a social safety net but pays much better for those in the top 20%. I’m from Canada and the pay gap between the US and Canada at the top-end of the scale is enormous. Not sure about the gap between America and Europe, but anecdotally it seems just as wide. For example, there is massive brain drain from Canada’s leading computer science programs to the US. I’ve heard some estimates that 50% of the computer science class from Waterloo U (Canada’s best computer science program) emigrates to the US upon graduation, mostly to SF of course. For an entry role, the pay in SF can be immediately 2x Toronto’s pay and this widens even more when you compare more senior roles.

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Jul 20, 2022·edited Jul 20, 2022

Almost 15 years in Korea now. Although my hometown in the mountains of Northern California would certainly be a nice place to retire, I wouldn't want to live in most of the U.S. cities where I would likely work. It's great here. In no particular order:

- Massively greater public safety that isn't enforced by constant police presence, but begins with culture: I leave my laptop on the cafe table when I go to the restroom; I don't think twice about long walks through unfamiliar neighborhoods.

- Police feel like public servants: they show due respect based upon your age, profession, etc; you can talk to them as one human being to another, in order to best resolve the issue.

- Trains, buses and taxis are clean, efficient, cheap and not filled with crazy people.

- You can drink a beer in public, unless it's in some asinine place like in front of an elementary school at 10am. (And even then, you're under no risk of being roughed up and arrested like in the U.S. -- you'll probably be politely asked to pour it out.)

- The average person is generally in much better shape and thus much more attractive. This is true across all ages except for the very old who suffered malnutrition as children. This is something I rarely hear pointed out, but how nice people around you look is no insignificant externality.

- Children learn basic life skills much earlier. The often walk themselves from school to academies, meet friends at the playground or store un-"supervised", etc. Parents tend to care very much about grades and other accomplishments, and kids keep busy schedules, but the infantilizing "helicopter parent" is barely to be seen. (This may be somewhat related to television news generally focusing on major political/economic/social/environmental stories over shocking but not particularly relevant murder/abduction stories.)

- The medical system is much more efficient. Without even considering the insurance systems, costs are dramatically lower because there are many more doctors per capita, family/friends have more freedom to do patient care, and legal damages aren't extremely high.

I'm not saying that everywhere in the U.S. is a shithole, of course, but aside from being close to family, my quality of life would decrease significantly in most respects if I lived there. The main glaring downside of Korea is LGBT acceptance; if I were gay, I could totally understand wanting to get back to the U.S.

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“When you spend money outside of tourist zones, almost anyone can see that official statistics greatly understate the gap.”

I don’t disagree, but could still use a link or short explanation

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Under open borders, US citizens will stop paying healthcare insurance, and move to a universal public healthcare country in case of he become ill.

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I was thinking about the benefits of immigration last month. I was going to lead a meeting for the dedication of a historical marker but couldn’t go because I had Covid.

Fortunately, my case was extremely mild likely due to the fact I had the Moderna vaccine. Moderna was found by a Canadian immigrant whose parents were Maltese immigrants to Canada.The company’s president is a French immigrant. I was healthy enough to run the whole meeting through Zoom ( which was founded by a Chinese immigrant.)

Even at current unreasonably low levels of immigration, we’re reaping the benefits.

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