The U.S. Federal Voting Assistance Program has commissioned another effort to find out how many U.S. citizens live abroad.
The Virginia applied research firm Fors Marsh Group LLC got the job. The firm’s Sidney Carl Turner said online that a complex statistical model developed by the company was able to produce annual estimates for the overwhelming majority of independent countries for the period 2000 to 2010.
He said his firm estimated that the global overseas civilian population increased from approximately 2.7 million in 2000 to 4.3 million in 2010, an increase of approximately 60 percent. In 2010, approximately half of this population was located in the Western Hemisphere and a third in Europe, he added. The Middle East, south and central Asia and Africa, while containing a relatively small fraction of overseas citizens throughout the 2000 to 2010 period, also saw faster rates of growth than the two leading regions, he said.
The voting assistance program is run by the U.S. Department of Defense to help service personnel overseas vote in U.S. elections. The Defense Department has a pretty good idea of where each service man or woman is located. After that the computations become fuzzy.
Fors Marsh Group used a number of existing statistics to come up with numbers. Some countries keep accurate lists of U.S. citizens. The firm also went to schools and universities to get data on students studying oversea. Then there is the Social Security information on retirees and others in the system.
The firm also recognized that there are many types of U.S. citizens overseas, including persons born in the United States and quickly removed to their parents’ country.
For Costa Rica, the firm estimated that there were 41,746 U.S. citizens of various types here as of 2010. That was a 74 percent increase over the total in 2000 and reflected a 5.72 percent annual increase.
The company said that Costa Rica in 2010 had 4,681 U.S. Social Security recipients and 6,261 U.S. students here. The firm also said that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service reported receiving 1,660 copies of Form 2555 from U.S. taxpayers in Costa Rica for that year. This is the form where individuals report foreign earned income.
The report has some obvious shortcomings. For example, Afghanistan showed strong growth in U.S. citizens, mainly through the presence of U.S. military and contractors.
Turner said there was a substantial degree of uncertainty in the estimates but maintained that the results were a good start.
Because the method used was statistical and based on extrapolation from hard data, the firm set up a 95 percent confidence intervals around the averages.
In the case of Costa Rica, that method gave a range of from 25,882 to 65,394 U.S. citizens in 2010. In the case of the world totals, the range was from 2,622,359 to 7,790,496.
That seems to be a lot of wiggle room.
Still, the estimates appear to be more solid than the guesses that have been used in the past.
A handful of countries, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, Germany, and Australia, continue to represent slightly over half (approximately 52 percent) of the population of U.S. citizens abroad, the report said.
East Timor with 18 U.S. citizens had the lowest number in the world, and Bhutan with 24 was second to last, according to the estimates.
In Central America Nicaragua showed the biggest percentage increase from 2000 to 2010. The estimate showed that U.S. citizen population increased from 2,478 to 14,340.