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a nation of immigrants

I’ve been wondering for some time if there’s a chance that if there’s a prolonged economic downturn, a significant number of Americans won’t just see their jobs moved overseas, they’ll begin to follow them. I’m sure it’s extremely unlikely: a significant depression in the US would almost certainly be accompanied by a more or less worldwide one. Anyway, it’s not like Americans left the country in huge numbers in the 1930s, and even if a depression were a push factor, there still would have to be some pull factors drawing people elsewhere.

That said, I found myself wondering about American emigration again when I read this:

Why does Germany have an engineering shortage while U.S. engineers are forced into “sales”? If our engineers didn’t go into sales, they’d be unemployed. It also puzzles me how, in 2008, German industry, with an ever higher euro, keeps outcompeting the U.S. in sales abroad. The Germans are actually looking for more than half a million skilled workers, including 100,000 engineers.

Of course unemployment in the US is still fairly low, sales can pay well enough, there are restrictions on Americans working in the EU, and Germany is attracting workers from other parts of the world who likely earn less than an American would ask for. So there are some pretty easy answers to the question: why aren’t American engineers trying for those jobs? And that’s before you get to the question of whether Americans are not inclined to emigrate, not even temporarily, with the intention of sending money back and eventually returning.**

*Though the article itself is actually on an entirely different topic from this post, by the way, namely: what effect will growing numbers of wealthy young wealth-managing liberals have on Democratic (and by extension, American,) politics?

**I know very little about American emigration history. I think quite a few Americans actually left for Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the American economy was growing rapidly (outside of panics/depressions). A chart in Eric‘s book indicates that the United States was second only to the British Isles as a source region for immigrants to Canada between 1891-1910 (figure 3.2, page 68). I wonder if that number includes immigrants to the United States who later went to Canada.