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187 Million Make Freedom-Enhancing Move

Analysis by the Cato Institute reveals that some 186.6 million immigrants had moved to freer countries by 2019


187 million immigrants moved to freer countries as at 2019, according to recent research published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank with headquarters in Washington.

The Cato Institute used figures from the Human Freedom Index – an annual index published in collaboration with the Canadian public policy think Fraser Institute that ranks 162 countries based on 76 indicators of personal and economic freedom – alongside data estimates from the Population Division of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.


In search of freedom

When combining the two datasets, the Cato Institute concluded that 186.6 million people had moved to freer countries by 2019. According to the research, the average immigrant typically moved 70 places up the Human Freedom Index ranking when relocating to a freer country.

Some 204 countries and territories were analysed for the purposes of the research. Cuban immigrants moved up the most number of places on the Human Freedom Index ranking when moving to freer countries, to the tune of 172 places, followed by Iranians (+153), Saudis (+140), Ethiopians (+135), Chinese (+134), Omanis (+128), Algerians (+123), Iraqis (+123), Turks (+122), and Vietnamese (+121).


Regional breakdowns

In terms of regional breakdowns, the largest number of immigrants (almost 43 million) who moved to freer countries up to 2019 were born in South or East Asia, with China top of the pile with 10.5 million, followed by Bangladesh and India (6.5 million each).

Around 39 million hailed from Europe, while the Middle East and Central Asia saw 36.2 million move to freer countries. Over 34 million were from South or Central America and the Caribbean, while for Africa the figure stood at almost 33 million.

A large proportion of those moving to freer countries moved to the Continent, with over 60 million moving to European nations. Germany, Britain and France lead the way, receiving 12.8, 7.6, and 5.8 million respectively. Over 50 million went to North America, while almost 29 million moved to Middle East or Central Asia countries.

The largest proportion of immigrants who have moved to freer countries reside in the US, but in terms of the overall percentage of the population, other countries lead the way. For example, the 42.6 million who live in the US make up 13% of the population, which is lower than the percentage shares of more than 30 other countries or territories. Switzerland and Australia lead the way in this regard, with 28% and 27% population percentage shares respectively.

The Cato Institute analysis also reveals that 69 million immigrants moved to nations that are considered less free than their country of origin. However, the research notes that these moves typically tend to be “freedom enhancing” for the individual given their particular set of circumstances.

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