Bryan Caplan  

How Singapore's #1

Should College Attendance be S... Read it and Weep...
A new international Gallup survey on migration preferences finds that the U.S. is the most popular dream destination.  Singapore, however, is #1 on the Potential Net Migration Index, which adjusts for population:
The Potential Net Migration Index is the estimated number of adults who would like to move permanently out of a country subtracted from the estimated number who would like to move into it, as a proportion of the total adult population.
The contest isn't even close: Singapore has a PMNI value of 260%, versus just 60% for the U.S.

P.S. If you need a moment of sadness today, scroll to the end of the table to see the world's leading hellholes.

HT: Scott Sumner

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Contemplationist writes:


I was astonished to see Singapore ranked so highly above the US too. But not mentioning that Saudi Arabia is number 2 seems dishonest to me. I grew up in Saudi Arabia as a non-muslim Indian and it was also surely a hellhole rights-wise, and there is no permanent immigration there, everyone from outside is a guest worker. Before we make too much of Singapore's place in this index, let us make sure that these questions are answered.

Joel West writes:

Do the math, and the absolute numbers are not so impressive for Singapore. The % measure the disruptiveness of the potential migration but not the actual relative popularity.

The list of destinations (and sending) countries seems to correlate strongly to per capita GDP and personal safety (law & order). In terms of both absolute and % numbers, I'd say the Anglo-American countries fare pretty well on this list.

In the order of the list:
12 million want to move to Singapore
7 million into New Zealand
56 million into Canada
30 million into Australia
32 million into Spain
43 million into France
40 million into UK
180 million into the US

12 million out of Indonesia
60 million out of China
50 million out of India
29 million out of Brazil
73 million out of Nigeria
16 million out of Mexico
19 million out of Philippines

This is not an exact number -- it uses the most recent (not 2007) population, and also the Gallup deliberate rounding error distorts the results (is China 5% or 3% or 8%? -- a difference of 60 million peole).

david writes:

There are some spectacular outliers in the data. Saudi Arabia is in eyepopping second place (180%). Taiwan is ridiculously low (-20%, same as Iran, Vietnam, and Azerbaijan). Likewise, you can't really argue with a straight face that people want to flee Hong Kong (-15%) at the same net rate as they do of Iraq (-15%).

Presumably there are some severe geographic distortions here; people who want to move out of Hong Kong might actually be wanting to move to neighbouring Shenzhen, perhaps. Then the apparent massive emigration is just due to disparities in local property prices. That probably accounts for why Botswana (55%) is ranked above Norway (35%) and Denmark (30%). It's not that it's a fantastic destination on the world scale, but rather it's the least corrupt nation on the African continent, so it attracts a lot of migrants from its neighbours. Likewise for rich US-protected Saudi Arabia and Singapore, probably.

david writes:

* apparent desired emigration. I'm guessing that respondents named countries they felt they could plausibly get into, rather than countries with relatively high barriers like the US.

An alternative explanation is that an incredibly desire for a similar culture discourages respondents from being more cosmopolitan (and therefore heading for the rich countries), but this just doesn't seem believable.

Francis writes:

I agree with Joel: the PNMI measures nothing more than the potential demographic disruption in a given country. Otherwise, what might possibly mean the ratio of the number of people who would like to immigrate in a country to its population?

However, dividing the number of people who would like to leave a country by the population of that country is conceivably an index of how people dislike staying there.

woupiestek writes:

Remember the law of large numbers! It is far easier for a city state to score extremely high or low on any statistic whatsoever, than it is for a big country like the United States.

Mike Rulle writes:

You have this thing for Singapore, which I don't get. I bet you liked Plato's Republic as a college student. Its a great city, naturally diverse, economically literate bla, bla, with much to be said for it.

But be sure to pack your own bags before you go there---don't want to be hung for a mislaid bit of pot. Underneath it all there is a dictatorship trying to get out.

John Thacker writes:

While it makes sense to adjust the number of people who would like to move out for population, I'm not sure how much it makes sense to adjust the number of people who would like to move in. Surely it makes sense to adjust it somewhat-- people have a recall bias (and other biases) towards naming larger countries in such surveys. A full adjustment seems overkill, though.

Thomas Sewell writes:

What struck me about the survey was that Israel is at 0%. I was interested to see what the numbers would reflect in terms of the historical desire for Jews to migrate there and how many were left elsewhere that still didn't want to be elsewhere. It appears the big migration that started years ago has resulted in a balance.

Overall, I agree that the percentage of population result seems less significant than just showing the raw numbers of people in each direction.

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