Do West Europeans still immigrate to America?Yes, we do. Not to the same extent as 100 years ago. Not the same the extent as Indians and Chinese, but we do.
This quite old article estimates that 15,000 Germans emigrated to the US in 2008 (Arbeitsmarkt: Immer mehr Deutsche suchen ihre Zukunft im Ausland - Title: More and more Germans search their future in foreign countries). This matches with the number by Joe in an other answer.
Let's focus in Silicon Valley: I once read that German government estimates that 50,000 Germans work in Silicon Valley. I fail to find the link again and I think that the estimate with much, much too high. But up to 10,000 sounds realistic to me. I know a number of Germans in Silicon Valley and walking downtown Mountain View or downtown Palo Alto you often hear people speaking German.
The reasons are personal and everybody has different reasons. Some I can come up with:
- German has a quite good CS education, but we mostly slept through the PC age and the Internet age. Germany is still sleeping when it comes to an IT industry. The last "startup" that grow large was SAP. In the 70's. Germany's industry is mostly car-based. We are really good at it. 700K jobs directly in the car in industry (Automobilindustrie - Beschäftigtenzahl in Deutschland | Statistik), In total, the government estimates that every 7th job depends on the car industry. However, I don't believe that cars are a future-market. At least not in its current form. The future of mobility whatever it will be will invented in Silicon Valley. Not in Germany. Personally speaking I think developing software for cars following the German waterfall model takes the fun out of software engineering.
- The salaries for software engineers are different. Nobody in Silicon Valley works for a German salary. Most post-graduate software engineer salaries in Germany are after taxes not much more than the salary as a PhD student. Most post-graduates move directly into management or sales because software engineering just doesn't pay. Most companies in Germany don't have a dual-track career ladder. You go to management or you are done. Yes, the cost of living is absurd in SV, but in the end of the day it is still significantly more. How about returning after a few years having been able to save more money in a couple for years than you can save in Germany in decades?
- The American left has a rosy picture of Europe and Germany. I always call it the "other Europe/Germany". Because it is not the Europe/Germany, I am from. Germany solves a lot of issues better than the US (e.g. our government is so freaking efficient compared to the US. You get much more for your tax money. Less deadly crimes), but the rosy picture is based at least partly in fantasy.
Not many Europeans are allowed to immigrate to the US. Since 1964, the US decided to restrict immigration from Western Europeans and open up our country to minorities. For example, the US only allows 500 Irish people a year to immigrate. That's why there's so many illegal Irish in Boston and New York. They are hard-working, speak the same language as we do, and require no time to acclimate to our culture, but they're not allowed to come here legally. It doesn't seem fair,
Some of your questions about quality of life and opportunities are subjective and vary based on the person involved, but to your first question: yes, western Europeans still absolutely emigrate to the United States. The rightmost column in the chart below (from Immigration to the United States) shows the number of (legal, I presume) immigrants during the years 1986-2012 by country of birth:
Generally, no. Immigration is a really big deal. To leave behind ones friend, family, language, culture, etc. is very hard for anyone to do regardless of where they are from. To overcome this "friction" there has to some significant incentive; historically these have been a) freedom from oppresion and/or b) a much higher monetary reward/salary. These simply do not exist between Western Europe and the US. Not only that, but improving conditions in Eastern Europe (and points even farther east) means there is a lot less pressure for people to move; and, if they move, it's mostly to Western Europe.
Imagine for a minute what kind of incentive would make you move to a foreign country. Would a 50% wage increase do it? How about a 100% increase? For many people even this is not enough to leave everything you know and start over somewhere else.
I've been living for a long time in the eastern gateway of USA's immigration and the logical, most convenient and, because of the beaches and the "tropical" ambiance, also the most attractive destiny for western europeans:
I don't see many western europeans permanently LIVING here.
As tourist, perhaps.
But actual, genuine immigrants?
In 20 years, I've personally met like 2 french couples and 4 spaniards actually living here.
Quality of life is very subjective, and, for many people, a lot different than making more money and having the latest car model.
I don't see an incentives for any EU citizen to go to the US. There are other options right around the corner, maybe there might be a language barrier, but your rights are equal from Sweden to Malta when it comes to healthcare and workers rights, with the same number of holidays varying slightly between countries, maybe between the UK and US there a come and go due to visa issues. I've been 2x to the US for work for considerable amount of time, and I can honestly say that there is no magnet for me to stay, between your crazy prices of 9.99 plus tax, through the roof healthcare system, gas guzzlers you drive, pervy TSA, insane work hours and heart strokes at 40y, I rather stay on this side of the Ocean, thank you very much :)