Number of Puerto Ricans Living in Puerto Rico Declines; Those Living in U.S. on the Rise

Sunday, August 24, 2014

At some point, sunshine doesn’t pay the bills, so Puerto Ricans are leaving their island in greater numbers for the U.S. mainland in hopes of a better economic future.


From 2010 to 2013, the commonwealth had a net loss of population to the mainland of 48,000 people, according to Pew Research. That compares to only 11,000 for the entire decade of 1990 to 2000 and 13,000 for the 10-year period before that. “We are seeing the biggest outmigration from Puerto Rico to the U.S. that we’ve seen since at least the 1950s,” Mark Hugo Lopez, one of the study’s authors, said according to Agence France Presse (AFP).


Forty-two percent of those leaving the island are doing so for job-related reasons, according to the survey, while 38% are moving for family reasons. Despite the recovery from the Great Recession, unemployment in Puerto Rico is still high. In June, the unemployment rate there was 13.1%, compared to 6.2% in the United States overall.


The island’s economy is likely to get worse. “This is a vicious cycle,” Edwin Melendez, head of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, told AFP. “If the population drops, there is less demand, and if there is less demand, there is less economic activity, and less work, and people leave.”


The emigration has resulted in there being more Puerto Ricans on the mainland than there are on the island. In 2012, there were 4.9 million Puerto Ricans on the mainland, compared to 3.5 million at home.


The stateside increase has been led by an uptick in Puerto Ricans who were born on the mainland, whose numbers increased by 67% from 2000 to 2012, according to Pew.


The exodus from the island has caused a change in the concentration of Puerto Ricans on the mainland. Formerly, most mainland-based Puerto Ricans lived in the Northeast. Now many are settling in the south, particularly Florida. According to AFP, by the end of the decade, Orlando will surpass New York as home to the greatest concentration of Puerto Ricans on the mainland.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Puerto Rican Population Declines on Island, Grows on U.S. Mainland (by D’vera Cohn, Eileen Patten and Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew Research)

Puerto Ricans Flock To U.S. Mainland As Island Crisis Worsens (by Diego Urdaneta, Agence France-Presse)

Puerto Ricans Vote to become U.S. State (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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