What if Everyone Could Just Move to the Country Where They Wanted to Live?

If you were going to move to another country, where would you go? Of the Americans who have left the country, many go to Mexico, Central America, Canada, and Europe. Mexico is one of the most popular destinations for expats from all around the world. Yet, according to the Migration Policy Institute, about 25% of the immigrants to the U.S. in 2017 were from Mexico.

What would happen if everyone could just move to the country where they wanted to live? Would countries with aging populations see an influx of young people? Would other countries gain new skilled workers or lose them?

Based on interviews with nearly half a million adults in 152 countries between 2015 and 2017, Gallup gauged the potential net gains and losses to a country's adult population by subtracting those who would like to move out of a country from those who would like to move into a country, (known as potential net migration index.)

Gallup says that while the index does not predict migration patterns, it does provide useful information about the people these countries are attracting around the world and the areas where leaders need to work to ensure they retain the talent already at home.

Gallup's results indicate that if everyone moved where they wanted, adult populations would continue to grow in North America, Europe, and Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, while populations in all other major regions - sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia - would shrink. Developed countries such as Singapore would see an influx of highly educated people. Sierra Leone would lose 78% of its 15- to 29-year-olds.

Based on Gallup's study, these are the countries that would have the highest net migration, along with their corresponding youth gain (or loss) and brain gain (or loss). Note that the survey was conducted between 2015 and 2017, which overlaps the timing of the European migrant crisis. Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 453,122 adults, aged 15 and older, in 152 countries.

1. New Zealand
1. New Zealand

1. New Zealand

Potential net migration: 231%

Brain gain: 333%

Youth gain: 222%

New Zealand's potential net migration index is one of the highest in the world. The country's population of about 4.8 million would increase to over 11 million. Above, a festival in Arrowtown, N.Z.

Photo: Naruedom Yaempongsa / Shutterstock

2. Singapore
2. Singapore

2. Singapore

Potential net migration: 225%

Brain gain: 185%

Youth gain: 410%

According to the Migration Policy Institute, brain gain is the movement of skilled workers into countries that reap their skills - for their countries of origin, it's brain drain. Many countries are increasingly looking to position their immigration policies to attract the types of international workers and students whose skills they desire.

Photo: Shutterstock

3. Iceland
3. Iceland

3. Iceland

Potential net migration: 208%

Brain gain: 296%

Youth gain: 451%

Iceland has the highest potential youth gain of all 152 countries.

Photo: Shutterstock

4. United Arab Emirates
4. United Arab Emirates

4. United Arab Emirates

Potential net migration: 204%

Brain gain: 22%

Youth gain: 330%

Above, the waterfall in the Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest shopping malls.

Photo: S-F / Shutterstock

5. Switzerland
5. Switzerland

5. Switzerland

Potential net migration: 187%

Brain gain: 107%

Youth gain: 372%

Pictured is Bern, Switzerland.

Photo: Ernst Christen / Shutterstock

6. Australia
6. Australia

6. Australia

Potential net migration: 179%

Brain gain: 158%

Youth gain: 378%

Above, a sculpture commemorates the contribution made by British and Maltese child migrants who left their country to find a new life in Western Australia.

Photo: Adwo / Shutterstock

7. Kuwait
7. Kuwait

7. Kuwait

Potential net migration: 169%

Brain gain: 16%

Youth gain: 349%

Photo: ansonfd / Shutterstock

8. Bhutan
8. Bhutan

8. Bhutan

Potential net migration: 162%

Brain gain: N/A (Results for brain gain are not shown if the sample size drops below 200.)

Youth gain: 172%

Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the edge of the Himalayas, has a population of about 800,000.

Photo: Shutterstock

9. Canada
9. Canada

9. Canada

Potential net migration: 147%

Brain gain: 120%

Youth gain: 343%

Above, Canadians celebrate their hockey team's gold medal win at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Photo: Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock

10. Luxembourg
10. Luxembourg

10. Luxembourg

Potential net migration: 131%

Brain gain: 86%

Youth gain: 237%

Photo: Shutterstock

11. Norway
11. Norway

11. Norway

Potential net migration: 109%

Brain gain: 83%

Youth gain: 187%

Pictured is Bergen, Norway.

Photo: Marius Dobilas / Shutterstock

12. Sweden
12. Sweden

12. Sweden

Potential net migration: 98%

Brain gain: 102%

Youth gain: 177%

Photo: Shutterstock

13. Denmark
13. Denmark

13. Denmark

Potential net migration: 91%

Brain gain: 169%

Youth gain: 109%

Photo: Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

14. Saudi Arabia
14. Saudi Arabia

14. Saudi Arabia

Potential net migration: 90%

Brain gain (loss): -8%

Youth gain: 114%

Above, the Nabawi Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Photo: Izuddin Helmi / Shutterstock

15. Northern Cyprus
15. Northern Cyprus

15. Northern Cyprus

Potential net migration: 79%

Brain gain: 432%

Youth gain: 255%

Northern Cyprus has the highest potential brain gain of all 152 countries. Pictured is the harbor in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus.

Photo: Shutterstock

16. Malta
16. Malta

16. Malta

Potential net migration: 58%

Brain gain (loss): -3%

Youth gain: 42%

Above, Mellieha, Malta.

Photo: ZGPhotography / Shutterstock

17. Ireland
17. Ireland

17. Ireland

Potential net migration: 48%

Brain gain: 14%

Youth gain: 159%

Photo: jamegaw / Shutterstock

18. United States
18. United States

18. United States

Potential net migration: 46%

Brain gain: 7%

Youth gain: 112%

The population of the U.S. would increase from 327 million to 477 million.

Photo: Shutterstock

19. Germany
19. Germany

19. Germany

Potential net migration: 45%

Brain gain: 26%

Youth gain: 136%

Above, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Balkan countries at the main station in Munich in 2015.

Photo: Jazzmany / Shutterstock

20. Austria
20. Austria

20. Austria

Potential net migration: 44%

Brain gain: 61%

Youth gain: 70%

Above, refugees from Syria cross the border from Hungary to Austria in 2015.

Photo: Procyk Radek / Shutterstock

21. France
21. France

21. France

Potential net migration: 44%

Brain gain: 27%

Youth gain: 170%

Asylum seekers wait to leave a migrant camp in Calais, France. The camp was closed in October 2016.

Photo: Edward Crawford / Shutterstock

22. Bahrain
22. Bahrain

22. Bahrain

Potential net migration: 41%

Brain gain (loss): -19%

Youth gain: 72%

Photo: Shutterstock

23. Portugal
23. Portugal

23. Portugal

Potential net migration: 40%

Brain gain: 43%

Youth gain: 75%

Photo: Magdalena Paluchowska / Shutterstock

24. Finland
24. Finland

24. Finland

Potential net migration: 38%

Brain gain: 107%

Youth gain: 96%

Photo: Karavanov_Lev / Shutterstock

25. United Kingdom
25. United Kingdom

25. United Kingdom

Potential net migration: 37%

Brain gain: -1%

Youth gain: 133%

Above, a member of the U.K. Border Force checks cars as they approach the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais, France.

Photo: Gary Perkin / Shutterstock

26. Spain
26. Spain

26. Spain

Potential net migration: 36%

Brain gain: 187%

Youth gain: 95%

Pictured is the Gran Via in Madrid.

Photo: Shutterstock

27. Botswana
27. Botswana

27. Botswana

Potential net migration: 35%

Brain gain: 14%

Youth gain: 32%

Above, Francistown, Botswana. The southern Africa country has a population of about 2.3 million.

Photo: Artush / Shutterstock

28. Panama
28. Panama

28. Panama

Potential net migration: 34%

Brain gain: 15%

Youth gain: 41%

Above, a welcome sign on the border between Panama and Colombia.

Photo: Shutterstock

29. Netherlands
29. Netherlands

29. Netherlands

Potential net migration: 29%

Brain gain: 21%

Youth gain: 81%

Photo: Harry Beugelink / Shutterstock

30. Costa Rica
30. Costa Rica

30. Costa Rica

Potential net migration: 25%

Brain gain: 59%

Youth gain: 3%

Above, a man crosses a footbridge into Costa Rica on the border with Panama.

The countries with the greatest potential outbound migration are Sierra Leone, Haiti, and Liberia. Learn more about Gallup's methodology or look up other countries at Gallup.com

Photo: Fotos593 / Shutterstock

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