Many Americans don’t often leave America, unless they’re visiting Niagara Falls or eating pasta in Italy for a week on vacation. And many don’t move to other countries, staying very close to where they grew up. According to a 2019 survey of people over the age of 25, a whopping 72% still live in or near their hometown.
But we might be outgrowing that desire to keep firm roots on American soil, or at least that’s true for Gen Z. According to a recent survey from Preply, more and more young people are thinking of leaving the country of red, white and blue, burgers and shakes, and—well, frequent gun violence.
Preply, a platform that connects language learners to tutors, surveyed 3,000 Gen Z Americans on whether they wanted to become expats. When they were asked if they see themselves living outside the U.S., using a scale of 1 (not at all) to 5 (very strongly), the average response was 3.1—meaning Gen Z leans more toward wanting out than staying in.
The biggest reason by far that respondents cited for wanting to leave the U.S., at 25.6%: Other countries looked more appealing for better social programs like universal healthcare. That’s not hard to understand, given medical debt is a crushing issue for Americans. New cultural experiences (18.9%), cost of living (18%), and a dislike of American politics (17.7%) all played into the appeal of other countries, as well. But one factor that has become deeply and undeniably intertwined with American politics—gun violence—isn’t being ignored by Gen Z. A majority of respondents, at 59%, said it plays a “major” role in their desire to leave the U.S.
It makes practical sense that gun violence weighs heavily on Gen Z, as they’ve grown up with school shooting drills and an awareness of the threat of being killed in class, in a movie theater, at a concert. That’s why they’re sometimes even referred to as the “school shooting generation.” More than any recent generation before them, they’ve been deeply impacted by gun violence, having lived through hundreds of tragic mass shootings, whether or not they witnessed the events firsthand. The problem is not going away, either. In 2023, there have been more mass shootings than days, and now, much activism comes from Gen Z, such as the organization March for Our Lives, which was started by school shooting survivors.
The U.S. is certainly plagued by some important and unsettling issues, many of which are financial. For Gen Z, however, the survey suggests that gun violence seems to be the most pressing. It’s life or death, after all, and the statistics don’t lie. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for young people in America, putting it ahead of cancer, car accidents, homicide, or suicide.
So, while getting out of dodge might seem like a big move, it’s far from extreme, if you consider that Gen Z might just want to live without the threat of gun violence hovering over them.