Short Survey Results: Passports, Travel, and Immigration

It’s always interesting to me to talk about travel.

As someone who makes travelling a lifestyle, I find it fascinating to hear the opinions of others on the subject and the impressions that they gather on the road. Sometimes the conversations go better, sometimes worse. The other day I had someone bring up the supposed ‘No-Go’ Zones in England for non-Muslims, the product of this divvy asshat’s Fox News tirade. I had to draw on all my powers of English reserve gathered in sixteen months to set the record straight (“With all due respect, no.”).

It was a good reminder that it’s difficult to approach common ground on travel and living abroad, especially when the perceptions here in Boulderiorfieldville, CO are influenced mostly by what happens to hit the news. For my part, living in a ‘highly Islamised’ area of East London was never once uncomfortable. In fact, I miss the Halal butcher desperately. Where else can I get frying steak for £1 a kg? Of course, if one never travels one never gets exposed to the realities than underpin the narrative shown on cable news.

I wanted to get some data about travel. The myth is that about 15% of Americans hold a valid passport at any given time. Americans are known worldwide for not travelling, and if they do take any time to do so at all, for not leaving the US. In fact, the percentage is much higher, approaching 50% (based on the numbers crunched here). There are still pockets of low passport use, like West Virginia (~19%) and Mississippi (~18%).

I devised a short survey to spot check the official numbers (discussion below) and added a question about emigrating/immigrating to another country. I put it up on Reddit’s Sample Size section, which allows surveys like this to get more exposure and participants. The answers were a little surprising!

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  • Respondents: 79
  • US Citizens: 59
Survey Participants' Nationality
Survey Participants’ Nationality
  • Total passport holders (valid): 64 (81%)
  • US passport Holders: 50 (84.7%)
Participants by number of trips abroad per year
Participants by number of trips abroad per year
  • Total planning to immigrate into a new country: 32 (40.5%)
  • US planning to immigrate elsewhere: 21 (35.5%) 
  • Non-US citizens, planning to immigrate: 9 (45%)
  • Most common income range of participants (mode): $75,000+
Destinations for travel, US Participants
Destinations for travel, Total Participants
  • Travel by continent (total continents marked = 112):
    • North America: 31 total, 24 USA
    • South America: 8 total, 8 USA
    • Africa: 4 total, 2 USA
    • Europe: 46 total, 32 USA
    • Asia: 16 total, 9 USA
    • Oceania: 4 total, 2 USA
    • Middle East: 3 total, 3 USA
Percentage destinations for trips abroad, US Participants
Percentage destinations for trips abroad, US Participants
  • Most common range of trips per year (mode): 0 times (29 total, 26 USA)
  • Percentage of total participants who take no trips abroad each year: 36.7%
  • Percentage of US participants who take no trips abroad each year: 44%
    • Of US citizens with valid passport: 20%

      Percentages for Trips Abroad
      Percentages for Trips Abroad (total)

Those are some shockingly high numbers for valid passports. The US State Department estimates that 46% of the US population has a valid passport. This cross-section (admittedly a particular one, being drawn from Reddit) has almost double that percentage. Higher than any one state in the US, and much higher than the Colorado average (47%).

I was surprised at the high number of participants planning on immigration! Especially for the US, in my experience I don’t believe I’ve met another person who wants to move abroad permanently. Good to know at least in this group of people, I’m not alone. 35.5% is a really high number for US citizens planning on emigrating, contradicting my personal experiences. But then, that’s precisely why one does a survey, right?

Things got more interesting when I asked for specific details on travelling abroad. It appears that most US participants with a valid passport take at least one trip abroad every year, but a high ratio of Americans surveyed take no trips abroad (44%). This could be contributing to the ‘American=No Passport’ myth.

This is obviously not a fully scientific study, and is probably flawed in several ways. One such way is the apparently high income average that was self-reported here. I have no way to know whether any of that is accurate. It’s the internet. Likely, people are making some of it up. Especially the six ‘students’ claiming $75,000+ a year. But then, maybe they were counting their whole family’s income. In addition, the sample size of those from outside the USA is tiny (20), so it’s not likely that the stats correlate in the general population.

This was a great little survey. What do you think of the results? Do they seem accurate, based on your experiences?

Click here if you’d like to add yourself to the survey. I’d love to get some more data to share!

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