How Would the World Change if Everyone Could Live Where They Wanted?

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Jan. 23 2014 6:22 PM

How Would the World Change if Everyone Could Live Where They Wanted?

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Gonna be a while.

Photo by Miguel Rojo/AFP/Getty Images

Gallup’s Potential Net Migration Index is an estimation of how countries’ populations would change if everyone in the world could live where they wanted. After roughly 520,000 interviews in 154 countries, they subtract the number of people who would want to leave each country from the number of people who want to move there.

Here are the results of this year’s index by region:

migration
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Europe’s high score comes despite declines in Southern Europe. Greece, for instance, has slipped into negative territory, from +11 percent to -8 percent, since the last time the survey was taken, in 2009. Canada and the United States are still the world’s two most desirable destinations for immigrants. Canada’s population would increase by 120 percent in a borderless world, America’s by 45 percent. Worryingly, that number’s down significantly from 60 percent in 2009. It’s still an extra 141 million people, though, or roughly the equivalent of bringing everyone in Russia into America. The old Russia, that is. Russia would decline by 9 percent in this scenario.)

The biggest increase in population would be in Switzerland, which would grow by 136 percent if everyone who wanted to move there could.* (They definitely can’t.) At the other extreme, Haiti’s population would decrease by 52 percent, followed closely by Sierra Leone and Liberia. Despite its economic success, China's number has remained unchanged at -6 percent.

Overall, an estimated 13 percent of the world’s adults—about 630 million people—wish they lived somewhere else

*Correction, Jan. 24, 2014: This post originally misstated that Switzerland would grow by 120 percent.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.