Puerto Rico has suffered from a big surge of migration to the United States in recent years due to the U.S. territory’s economic crisis. The “diaspora puertorriqueña” has been the term coined to describe the growing Puerto Rican population in the United States.
The United States Census released data yesterday confirming that 88,676 people moved from Puerto Rico to the United States last year – almost 7,500 each month. During 2016, 21,196 people moved from a state to Puerto Rico, and about 3,479 moved from elsewhere, resulting in a net loss of island population of 64,001. The population in the island now stands at 3,384,760, significantly less than the roughly four million people who lived in Puerto Rico a decade ago.
The 2016 figure is the highest migration recorded by the Puerto Rico Community Survey in twelve years according to the Statistic Institute of Puerto Rico.
Poverty is one of the main drivers of Puerto Ricans seeking new endeavors in the United States. The U.S. Census report shows that 35,683 Puerto Ricans who had incomes up to $9,999/year left Puerto Rico last year for the states. These individuals are the most likely to begin receiving immediately the more generous Medicaid, nutrition and other social benefits eligible to all U.S. citizens who live in a state.
Even though poverty is one of the main reasons Puerto Ricans leave home to seek better opportunities in the United States, professionals who believe that they would be better valued in the states are also fleeing. Among Puerto Ricans who have some college, associate degrees, bachelor’s degree, or graduate degrees, around 30,289 left for the mainland in 2016. There have also been rumors of other professionals leaving Puerto Rico, but keeping their official residences in Puerto Rico to avoid paying state and federal income tax.
The loss of skilled professionals to the mainland is disconcerting for the Puerto Rican workforce. The education, skill set and bilingual capabilities of these professionals make them sought after employees in the U.S., and with all of the people moving to the United States, other Puerto Ricans have lost the fear of restarting their lives in a “foreign” place. They now have family and friends that have relocated to the U.S., which helps them adapt faster.
As opportunities increase in the states relative to Puerto Ricoa, these migration statistics could very well increase in 2017. People will be tempted to leave, and there may be little incentive for people to return home. In the future, the growing Puerto Rico “diaspora” is poised to wield greater power in U.S. politics.
Click here to view U.S. Census document, “Geographical Mobility in the Past Year by Age for Residence 1 year ago in Puerto Rico,” 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
Click here to view U.S. Census document, “Geographical Mobility in the Past Year by Age for Current Residence in Puerto Rico,” 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
Click here to view U.S. Census document, “Geographical Mobility in the Past Year by Educational Attainment for Residence 1 year ago in Puerto Rico,” 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
Click here to view U.S. Census document, “Geographical Mobility in the Past Year by Individual Income in the Past 12 Months (in 2016 inflation-adjusted dollars) for Residence 1 year ago in Puerto Rico,” 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.