US Ranks Among Worst Countries in the World to Live In: Expat Survey Cites Health Care, Education Costs

The United States is now ranked among the world's worst places to move to, due to rapidly increasing costs of living, health care and basic education.

A new survey released this week of more than 20,000 expatriates representing 182 nationalities used five overall pillars of criteria, 48 separate factors and 17 subcategories to rank countries. Using a sample size of at least 75 survey participants per location, Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, and Personal Finance were rated by expats from all over the globe. The sixth annual report from Expat Insider found the U.S. ranked 47th out of 64 countries rated in the survey.

Top subcategory rankings included Vietnam, replacing Bahrain as the number one place to work abroad. Portugal, Spain and Taiwan remained the top 3 for countries with the highest quality of life. For the fourth year, Finland topped the list as the best place to move with a family.

One-in-three expats who came to the U.S. said their income increased in America, but they said this was dramatically offset by higher daily expenses which overshadowed their household income. The costs of childcare and health care were the main factors behind the U.S. being dragged to the bottom of the rankings.

About two-thirds of surveyed expats, 64 percent, rated the quality of education in America positively. But more than half, 55 percent, were appalled by the costs and about three-quarters said child care simply is not affordable, compared to the average of 40 percent who lamented this across all countries.

"If you have kids, their education will cost a fortune," one French expat complained of the U.S. school system.

Another factor dragging the U.S. down in the rankings was safety. About 69 percent of expats reported feeling safe in the U.S., but that number is far less than the 81 percent average worldwide. One of the few places where the U.S. scored higher than the global average was in terms of Digital Life – fast internet connections and access to high-speed internet in homes were much more prevalent in America.

The countries that emerged as the biggest "winners," countries that scored better on the survey for 2019 than in 2018, were Indonesia, Qatar and Kazakhstan. Conversely, a weakened economy, higher expenses and an inability to find leisurely activities made Cyprus, Costa Rica and South Korea drop several places on the list from previous years.

Kazakhstan specifically was lauded by expats. The Central Asian state has gained 27 ranking spots on the list since the survey began in 2014. About 80 percent of expats reported satisfaction with their life abroad there. Career prospects, easing into the "rich local culture" and major improvements in transportation were widely cited as the country's largest upshots.

Qatar was applauded by expats for offering solid job options as well as an affordable cost of living and an overall positive quality of life experience. Expats noted visitors "can save up for travelling and the future" while staying in the Middle Eastern country on the Persian Gulf.

Cyprus, on the other hand, fell 15 spots to 45th place – still ahead of the U.S. – but political problems and a recent switch to a national health care system hurt the Mediterranean island nation.

The study authors concede that expats are highly concentrated, with three in ten international visitors living in Germany, the U.S., Switzerland, the U.K., or the United Arab Emirates.

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American flags are seen near the National Mall in front of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC on July 3, 2018. The U.S. fell in popularity as a destination for expatriates in 2019. Mandel Ngan/Getty
US Ranks Among Worst Countries in the World to Live In: Expat Survey Cites Health Care, Education Costs | U.S.