In 2016, Puerto Rico had a population of 3.4 million, a number we have heard often recently in the news. “3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico…” has started off many of the reports of damage and recovery after Hurricane Maria.
But a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that this was an overestimate of Puerto Rico’s population just before hurricane season.
3.3 million was the best estimate for Puerto Rico’s total population at the time that Hurricane Maria struck.
The Census report from which this data is taken shows the growth or decline in populations of each state, plus Puerto Rico, between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017. Eight states saw a population decline; the largest was 1% in Wyoming. Puerto Rico’s decline amounts to 3% — three .
Total population loss: -69,343
Natural Increase: -1,065
Total births: 28,267
Total deaths: 29,332
Total Migration: -68,278
This data shows that the birth rate in Puerto Rico is low; there were more deaths, even before Hurricane Maria, than there were births in Puerto Rico last year.
The largest population loss, however, is from people moving away from the Island. 69,343 people left Puerto Rico, primarily for the States, between July 2016 and July 2017.
Since Hurricane Maria, more than 239,000 people have moved to Florida from Puerto Rico, so that Florida’s Puerto Rican population now tops one million. While Florida has the largest number of newcomers from Puerto Rico, other states, including Texas, Arkansas, and Ohio as well as traditional enclaves in states like New York and New Jersey, are also seeing new residents from Puerto Rico. Even without firm numbers, it’s clear that the post-Maria exodus is further changing the population on the Island.
This population change affects Puerto Rico, of course, making economic recovery more difficult. It also affects states like Florida, which will have to provide for the new residents the social services Puerto Rico could not.