Global Intelligence Library, International Student Mobility

How do we double the number of Americans studying abroad in five years? This question is what The Institute of International Education (IIE) is trying to answer with its Generation Study Abroad, a five-year initiative that seeks to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad. Using expertise and insights from industry leaders, IIE has come up with 11 Big Ideas that institutions can implement right now to contribute to this cause.

Here at Shorelight, we decided to help out. We believe that data helps inform decisions and can reveal hidden opportunities, so we took on idea 4: “Use research strategically and more practically.” We started by analyzing international student mobility in and out of the United States.

We know that the U.S. is still the number one destination for international students but it has not had a great history of sending students abroad – according to the most recent Open Doors Report, on average, for every three international students entering the U.S., there is only one American studying abroad.

But the key word here is average. One question we wanted to answer was: are there any states that have more Americans studying abroad than international students studying within that state? At the upper end of the spectrum are the usual states – California, New York and Texas – but at the lower end are states like Vermont, Maine, Nevada and Mississippi. The likelihood of having a net flow ratio of 1 to 1 increases as you move down the list. But even the states with higher populations of students studying abroad are not that far off from having an even net flow of internationally mobile students. This is especially surprising when you consider the volume of students within those states.


On the left you’ll see the number of international students in the US, by state, and in the middle column you’ll see the number of Americans studying abroad from that state. The dots on the right show a quick calculation of the difference between the two bar graphs. At the bottom of each column you can sort the data by clicking on the sort icon next to each of the data descriptions.

Generation Study Abroad is still an ambitious goal for the U.S., but getting small wins (and celebrating those institutions and states that are already contributing) will go a long way in generating momentum to make it happen by the end of this decade.