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September 05, 2005

How many Americans own a passport?

Surprisingly, no one seems to know for sure. But an educated guess appears to put it at close to 20% or 60m. There seems to be a lot of reasons why this number is so low...these seem to be the most reasonable:

* The US is a big country. There is such a diversity of places, climates, and activities that Americans do not need to leave the country.
* Vacations are too short. Most Americans get two weeks holiday a year, limiting the distances people are willing to travel.
* There is no such thing as a "gap year". Some countries have a tradition of taking a year off between high school and college. Or military service and working. Not in the US!
* Close-by foreign travel is possible without one. One does not need a passport to go to Mexico, Canada or some parts of the Caribbean (at least not yet)

I did not get my first passport until I was 18 and before that, I did not think much of it. Of course, it seems like I have been on airplanes ever since.

If you want to review the entire debate about Americans and their passport situation, you should check out this entry and comments posted by Phil Gyford. At the very least, it is highly entertaining. If you want the hard number...skip the blog and refer back to the first sentence of this entry.

The whole question seems to invite an anti-American bias (Only X% of Americans have a passport, etc), but there is no love lost for the Americans that do travel....unfortunately that could be our own fault. And I am not talking about matching hawaiian shirts, not knowing the difference between carpaccio and pasta, or talking loudly in English in hopes that this will somehow translate into whatever local language is being spoken. Instead, think about iconic movie characters...we gave England James Bond and kept Chevy Chase for ourselves (and don't start moaning that Ian Fleming is not American...we made the movies).

Posted by Kirk on September 5, 2005 11:35 PM