Same proportion of Mexicans and Americans wants life abroad

A Hispanic woman walks down a street bearing a large painting of an American flag on March 28, 2011 in Union City, N.J.

For the first time, a Gallup poll shows the same percentage of citizens want to leave Mexico as want to leave the United States. In 2007, 21 percent of Mexicans wanted to permanently move away. The figure is now down to 11 percent in Mexico.

That’s equal to the percentage of American citizens who want to leave the U.S. “Which is rather monumental given the relationship between the two countries in terms of immigration flows over the last 20 or so years,” says Gallup analyst Andrew Dugan.

The Gallup poll did not ask why people wanted to emigrate. So we focused on the American side of the equation and asked some U.S. ex-pats about their motivation to leave.

Spencer Manners has lived abroad since he left college in 1975. First, in Puerto Rico. Then he moved to Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. When prices began to rise in Costa Rica, he moved back to Managua, Nicaragua, where he owns a nursery business that grows and exports ferns.

“Because Nicaragua is a low-cost country to live in, your standard of living is really quite good compared to other places. Your dollar goes much further in things like purchasing homes and buying food,” says Manners.

In Mexico, Peter St. John bought a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house for $60,000. “I just paid my property tax for the year. It was about $30,” says St. John.

He works as a realtor, mostly helping Americans and Canadians buy homes in Mexico. Many of his clients are retirees looking to get more bang for their bucks. But that’s not why St. John left Cincinnati. “It was the climate. Even more than the winters, I ran away from the summers -- hot and humid,” says St. John.

Mark Rapacz left Minnesota because he had trouble finding work. He ended up teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. Now, he’s working in California, handling communications for a branch of Stanford University. “My international experience was the key to eventually finding something here in the States,” says Rapacz.

Jan Steinman left Oregon and settled in British Columbia, Canada. He’s intent on having as little impact on the planet as possible. He grows his own food and lives on $10,000 a year. That was a lot harder to do in the U.S.

“I’m a health-care refugee from the U.S.,” says Steinman. “Basically, a third to half of my income would have to go to insurance premiums. And here in Canada, I have free health care.”

Steinman is the communications steward at the EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. If you are interested in living on less, Steinman says his farming co-op is looking for new recruits.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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