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Puerto Rico’s Population Continues to Decline

The Pew Research Center has published an analysis of the most recent U.S. Census data on Puerto Rico’s population. Census data provides the most accurate information on population, but it takes time. Pew’s analysis basically confirms previous estimates: Puerto Rico’s population dropped severely after Hurricane Maria and continues to decline.

In fact, at 3.2 million residents, Puerto Rico’s population is now the lowest it has been since 1979.

Hurricanes drove people out

Between 2017 and 2018, the population of the U.S. territory fell by 3.9%, the worst decrease since record-keeping started in 1950. Residents had already been leaving for the States in an effort to find jobs or to access healthcare.

Following the hurricane season of 2017, Puerto Rico saw a net loss of 123,000 people. Every municipio saw net population loss of at least 2%.

An aging population

In 2008, Puerto Rico’s median age was 36. By 2018, it had risen to 43. 14% of the population was 65 or older in 2008, and that figure is now 21%.

By comparison, the median age in the U.S. as a whole has risen from 37 to 38 in the same time period. Japan, a nation facing severe problems from its aging population, has a median age of 46.9.

Low birth rate

One reason for Puerto Rico’s aging population is the number of young people and families leaving the Island. However, Puerto Rico also has the lowest birth rate in the nation. Between 2008 and 2018, the birth rate fell by 47%.

Economist Lyman Stone suggested that the effect of Puerto Rico’s low birth rate on the population would be stronger than that of Hurricane Maria in the long run.

The continued decrease in population in Puerto Rico has had and will continue to have negative effects on the economy.


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