This week we’ve got a sister article to our ‘move to Canada in 2021’ post written by our US based contributor, Dave.
It is a classic fantasy for many of the world’s migrants to live and work in the United States of America and earn their fortune. Any proud American will be the first to tell you that it is the land of opportunity, the land of the free and where the American dream is as alive and real as the sky is blue.
America is rich in its breathtaking scenery, and astonishing landmarks. It has a rich albeit short history and serves as a crossroads for many different cultures from all around the world.
However, due to toxic politics, dangerous inequality, and endemic violence, many people are asking if America is still a worthwhile place to emigrate to in 2021. Concerns around jobs, politics, healthcare, and immigration are always hot topics, so what is the modern reality? Does the dream still live?
We’re going to break this down from the perspective of your average immigrant, wanting to move to the US for a better life, hopefully for the long term. It might not surprise you but the definite answer for ‘is the US still worth emigrating to?’ is a clear and concise – Boy Howdy.
General Economy (Non-Covid)
Since the 19th century the US has been a leader in the science and technology sectors. America is on the forefront of technology particularly in the areas of artificial intelligence, computers, pharmaceuticals, medical, aerospace, and military equipment. The United States of America is the biggest importer of goods worldwide, and serves as the second largest exporter in the world.
With the US dollar being the primary reserve currency the country slides in at number five when ranked in GDP per capita. It’s GDP is over $22.4 trillion dollars a year, which constitutes nearly a quarter of the gross world product at market exchange rates.
It is every immigrant’s dream to arrive at a time when their skills are badly needed and there is money there to pay them for their work. However, any prospective immigrant should be aware that the USA is getting less equal and as a result the share of the pie available to the average person is getting smaller.
Just note though that this is a small share of the biggest pie.
New Economy (Post-Covid)
However, the US’s economy is not perfect, and hasn’t been for some time. With just under 6,000,000 of its citizens documented as homeless, unemployment sitting at 5.9%, crippling student debt and an unbelievable budget deficit of $3 trillion one can be tempted to hold off on contacting your local US embassy. However, there is great evidence to suggest positive economic growth toward the end of the year 2022.
According to the American Bureau of labor statistics (BLS) a slower growing GDP will become the “new normal” when reaching 2022. Though there are many hurdles for the US to tackle in order for it to be successful at the end of the fiscal year. With the ever growing population and the need for more housing and infrastructure the construction sectors are on the rise.
The BLS projects that the GDP will grow by an additional 2.6% by 2022 reaching a remarkable 17.6 trillion. Unemployment could potentially drop by 5.4% with the addition of over 12 million new household jobs by the end of the year.
Even though things look brighter for America this year than they did last year, they aren’t exactly ‘bright’ in the overall sense. The cost of Covid-19 has saddled American taxpayers with a ridiculous amount of debt. How ridiculous you may ask? 16 trillion dollars!
We also became aware of the lack of indigenous manufacturing capabilities and robust domestic companies. What does this actually mean in the new economy?
More debt is going to mean less government spending on social programs and infrastructure. Less American firms is going to mean large international companies without roots to the country taking over local markets. While high tech manufacturing is an American speciality, the working class will get squeezed with worse conditions and lower wages. The middle class is likely to get squeezed too.
For the average immigrant then, the risks and consequences of failure will be higher but the chances for success will also increase.
Are There Still Jobs In The Big Cities?
The short answer? Absolutely. With the emergence of ‘Work from Home’ (WFH) as a growing feature of American work, many companies are finding it harder to attract talent to their physical office sites. While this offers a great level of flexibility for highly skilled workers it will also benefit immigrants too.
While some cities in places such as Texas and California may be growing ‘too big to function’ America has over 30 cities with a population of greater than 500,000 people. You can build a life in any of them.
Are There Jobs In Smaller American Cities?
Because of America being the superpower that it is, a country where billions of dollars exchange hands daily the job market is very competitive. This is not to say that the job market is impenetrable, but it can be difficult for you to move up. Unless you adapt to their very specific mindset.
A prime example of this mindset comes from my brother in-law. A retired major of the US military with a wife, two children, an amazing job, a beautiful home and life, is currently enrolled in his 4th post-graduate degree. This can be the level required to reach the absolute top of the American market, especially in smaller cities.
It is important to remember that although America is a very varied country, you will find this attitude in cities as small as 100,000 inhabitants. Smaller cities are cheaper, but they are just as competitive in the objective sense.
So, although competitiveness varies from town to town, and from person to person it is always present. But as long as you are passionate and determined in your field your limits are boundless no matter what your citizenship status is.
Wherever you move though remember that America is not necessarily a meritocracy, you have to ‘play the game’ in whatever place/industry you arrive in. The beautiful thing is that you can arrive anywhere in any industry.
What Industries Immigrants To America Should Consider
According to many websites, due to the circumstances of 2019 and 2020, the construction industry is on the rise. This is true in all areas of construction, corporate, residential, commercial. It is almost like we are making up for lost time. And on top of that according to BLS construction workers can expect to see an 11% increase in employment rate before 2025.
But there are many other industries to look out for this year. Aside from construction, healthcare is on the rise (for obvious reasons), real estate, information technology, trucking, beer manufacturing (yes, you heard right), and direct retail. Also expect the hotel and hospitality industries to return to normal over the next year.
As you can see, though, there is rising work in the manual and high-tech sectors. It would be smart to plan for your American Dream in terms of a ten-year view because you might not be able to just jump in at Google or Apple.
What Industries To Avoid In America
Manufacturing and legacy tech (DVDs, some retail stores) are the industries that have long been in decline in the United States. The reasons for this are obvious. With the outsourcing of American jobs to China and the rise of Amazon, neither of these things make enough money to keep going.
Things like Office Supplies, clothing/textiles, and anything that can be replaced by the ‘online space’ are also not good bets. Fortunately for the new American immigrant you are unlikely to find a large city that is dependent on any one particular ‘dying’ industry (smaller towns might be a different story).
Stick to future tech and you will be fine.
Cost of Living
Many of the basic consumer goods in America are quite affordable (given the scale at which they are imported). Prices are generally much lower than places such as Canada or the United Kingdom. However, some things can be ridiculously expensive (medicines) and there are a few quirks you need to know about living in America first.
Despite all the below though, you will normally be in the Top 10% of people on the planet in terms of your purchasing power.
American Money Quirks
The single most annoying thing about living in America is the normal lax of sales tax on the price tag of everything you buy. Instead they wait until you have collected all your groceries for the week, and although you stuck to your budget suddenly your total is somehow $20 over and you can’t figure out why. The tax has caught you.
Americans often complain about the prices of food/alcohol when vacationing in Europe, however one thing you have to factor in for the USA is that your restaurant bill is always significantly higher due to the fact that tipping is an American pastime.
The truth is even your local dive bar in America can be, at the very least, 10% more expensive than a nightclub in europe. This is due to the tipping culture in America. Regardless of the level of service a 10% is expected. A waiter would have to shoot your mother to get any less. And with each alcoholic beverage a $2 tip is expected. All this doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up at the end of the night.
Every state and city has its own vibe and way of doing things. How much your dream life will cost to live is heavily dependent on your environment. Not tipping though, tipping is here forever.
The Cost Of Food
The cost of food can vary greatly from state to state in the US due to different governing tax laws. But at the end of the day America is the land of cheap affordable* food! America is littered with strip malls, all of which look the same, all of which are full of fast food joints and diners.
*Affordable doesn’t always mean high quality!
We are not recommending that you partake in this type of food, as it lacks everything, from nourishment and sustenance to actual ingredients.But when you are on a budget or in a pinch, trust me you will not go hungry.
In regards to eating out and your groceries it all depends on where you go. And you will hear about it upon your arrival. If there is one thing America is good at it is letting you know where to get a good deal through relentless advertising.
The Cost Of Travel
Travel is easy and relatively cheap in large metropolitan areas. However, the more rural you get, the harder and more expensive travel will become. Truth be told, unless you are living smack dab in the middle of New York or Los Angeles, get a car. In fact, a large % of Americans are anti-public transport, and this can make your new home city a traffic nightmare. Gasoline and insurance costs are relatively similar to developed countries.
Additionally. America is a very big country and because of its global location it is home to all types of weather and landscape. This is one reason why only 20% of Americans have passports, they only have to fly an hour in one direction to completely change their view. So flying around America is very cheap per mile travelled.
As of right now, I could buy a plane ticket from Washington to Seattle (2306 miles) for $157. That isn’t bad in all fairness for a 5 hour and 37 minute journey. Or you could drive for 41 hours.
Politics & Culture
Is There Still Anti-Immigrant Sentiment In America?
Short answer is, Yes! America has a long and proud history as a country of Immigrants. Sadly though, tensions of immigration have just as long and sad as history. The country is mainly divided by two major political movements, Democratic and Republican. This political landscape has severely divided the country and it can be hard to find someone who resides in the middle.
So depending on your ethnic background the reception you receive is uncertain. Even I, as a pale and pasty white man, have been subject to comments such as “How did you get over the wall?” and “You speak very good english for an immigrant” all on top of a mountainous pile of inappropriate ethnic jokes. This pales in comparison to what non-white immigrants have to put up with.
The main issue is that America is the land of extremes. To quote the comedian Tommy Tiernan, “America has the perfect balance of really fit f**kers and really fat f**kers. No matter what time it is, day or night, there is always someone eating, and someone jogging, but never at the same time”.
These extremities are everywhere you look, including politics. The extreme left and the extreme right are of course the loudest and receive most if not all media attention. Keeping up with this noise can often leave you feeling confused or angry. I guess what we are saying is, just be aware of the area you are in and the company you are with. You should expect anti-immigrant sentiment, both loudly, and in subtle ways.
Is American Culture And Politics Changing?
However, all that being said, the politics and culture of America is changing. Former president Donald J Trump left a mark of unacceptance on immirgants both legal and illegal across the country. The weaponization of immigration is not new, but it is getting amped up daily.
The backlash against the Trump regime has not been ‘fully open borders’ as his supporters feared, with many policies remaining in place and nobody really happy with the status quo. Immigration and multiculturalism are becoming more accepted in the ‘middle’ but the push back is becoming more extreme.
This is the funny thing about America, it is a cultural melting pot that both welcomes so many and pushes away so many. You would be hard pushed to find a comparison for the epicentre of cultural acceptance that America is. I don’t think there is any other country that has embraced so many different cultures around the world or that has paid homage to those countries on its own native soil.
In short, you cannot guarantee that you will be accepted everywhere you go, but you can find both your place, and you people.
America in 2021
So there you have it, America is as complex as it always was. In 2021 it is a land of great opportunity and anxiety inducing problems. You can become a self-made millionaire, or you can go bankrupt needing medicine. You can make friends from all over the world or be run out of town.
Immigrating to the USA is a big step, and a life goal of many people around the world. It can be a complex process to go through and knowing the risks and rewards of taking the plunge is very important. Before you decide to leave your old life behind, be sure to research yourself what America will mean to you. There is so much propaganda out there you should only rely on facts and your gut.
America is what you make of it, there is still a shot at the American Dream for everybody, it’s getting smaller, yes, but it’s still there from sea to shining sea.