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Trump's Norway immigration idea? There's one problem

"Sh*thole countries" comment

President Trump suggested he'd prefer to see "more people from places like Norway" immigrate to the U.S., according to accounts of his now-infamous Oval Office conversation with congressional leaders Thursday on immigration reform. There's one big problem with this: Norwegians apparently aren't so enamored of life in America. 

Immigration from the Scandinavian country has slowed to a trickle in the last several years. In 2016, only 404 Norwegians became lawful permanent residents, according to the Department of Homeland Security. By comparison, Norway had about 10,000 immigrants from North America in 2016, according to Statistics Norway. 

That's a far cry from the 1880 to 1889, when more than 185,000 Norwegians became lawful permanent U.S. residents, representing almost one-tenth of Norway's population at the time.


It's not hard to see why the numbers have dwindled so dramatically. For one, the U.S. doesn't provide the same type of appeal to Norwegians as it did more than a century ago, when Norway was poorer and a surge in its population left many struggling to make ends meet. 

Norway today is a radically different country. By many measures, it surpasses the U.S. in quality of life, prompting one journalist to write in The Nation that living in the Scandinavian country made her feel that America was "backward." Or, as Eurasia Group president and CBS News senior global affairs contributor Ian Bremmer numerically noted in a tweet Friday :

Both the U.S. and Norway are rich countries, but Scandinavian countries tend to score higher on rankings of quality of life because of their strong social services, such as universal health care. 

Norway ranks No. 1 in the United Nation's Human Development Index, receiving high marks for health, education, gender equality and income. By comparison, the United States ranks 10th, with lower marks for education, wealth and life expectancy. More than 16 percent of Americans live in poverty, or double the rate in Norway.


It may be no surprise that at least one developed country is now targeting Americans as potential immigrants: New Zealand. The country has started a campaign called NZ Now to lure American professionals to the antipodean country. Two of its selling points: its public health care system and quality of life. It added that a 2017 effort to lure software developers has attracted more than 7,000 U.S. applicants so far.

Even if New Zealand is an exception in targeting America as a source of potential immigrants, it's clear that Norwegians aren't going to start flooding back to the U.S. like it's 1890 again. After all, that would mean giving up universal healthcare, almost five weeks of paid vacation and 46 weeks of fully paid parental leave.

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