A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that the number of Puerto Ricans who have ‘voted’ for statehood for themselves by moving to a State has grown enormously during the 21st century. As the chart above shows, net migration from Puerto Rico to the States during the last two decades of the 20th century averaged a loss of 12,000 people per year. What’s more, the net population loss was slowing at the end of the 20th century.
In the past three years, however, Puerto Rico’s net migration has deepened to an average of 48,000 people each year — four times the number lost in the final decade of the 20th century.
In fact, according to Pew Research’s report, a combination of U.S. Census data and earlier Spanish counts suggests that Puerto Rico’s population had been growing from the 1700s until the current loss.
In the States, the Puerto Rican population is growing. In 2012, there were 4.9 million Puerto Ricans in the States, and just 3.4 million in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are now the second largest Hispanic group in the United States, second to Mexicans.
The most recent wave of migration is a little different from earlier migration to the mainland. Puerto Ricans are heading to the Southern states rather than to the Northeast, with 30% of Puerto Ricans in the States living in the South, particularly in Florida. Half still live in the Northeast.
Economic reasons are cited as the main impetus for moving to the mainland. Puerto Rico’s levels of unemployment and of poverty are high, and the recent downgrading of Puerto Rico’s bonds to junk status has brought the severity of Puerto Rico’s debt problems to light.
Where a few years ago young, educated people were the majority of the migrants to the mainland, people from all walks of life are now leaving for the States. Puerto Ricans living in the States are better off financially than those living in Puerto Rico, the report confirms.
A recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concludes that “there are no strong signs that a meaningful recovery is taking hold [and] serious fiscal challenges have surfaced.”