The Puerto Rican “Brain Drain”

After several years of strong migration, more Puerto Ricans now live in the fifty states than in Puerto Rico.  According to the 2010 Census, there are 4.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the non-territorial United States and 3.7 million living in Puerto Rico.  All states but one experienced an increase in their Puerto Rican populations between 2000 and 2010, with 300,000 additional people moving from Puerto Rico to the states between 2005 and 2009 as the territory experienced a recession.

Although Puerto Ricans remain most concentrated in the Northeast and Florida, Puerto Rican communities appear in almost every state throughout the country.  For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey from 2008 and 2009, the Puerto Rican population of Alaska grew nine percent  – from 4,587 to 5,000.  Texas saw one of the largest growths in its Puerto Rican populations: a 12 percent increase, from 104,564 to 115,871.

The Midwest also experienced an influx of Puerto Ricans during this time.  The American Community Survey raised its estimate for Puerto Ricans in Ohio 9.4 percent, from 78,549 to 85,909 between its 2008 and 2009 estimates, an increase of 7,360 people.  Over the same time period, the Puerto Rican population in Indiana grew five percent from 26,768 to 28,101, a difference of 1,333.

Populations also grew in areas already known for their strong Puerto Rican constituencies.  In Florida, the state with the second-largest number of Puerto Ricans, the population grew 7.1 percent from 714,153 to 764,611, an increase of 50,458.  Even in New York, which is losing Puerto Ricans to Florida and Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican population slightly expanded between 2008 and 2009 from 1,084,417 to 1,090,272, or 0.5 percent.  Connecticut had a similar story, with its population increasing by 6,395, or 2.9 percent, over the same time period (2008 to 2009).

In the South, the number of Puerto Ricans grew 12.2 percent in Virginia, up 7,165 from 58, 577 to 65,742.  The population grew 8.4 percent (from 50,762 to 55,032) in North Carolina and 6.4 percent (from 53,850 to 57,277) in Georgia.

Finally, the Mid-Atlantic States have not been left out of this population growth.  Delaware experienced the largest percentage increase in the region, with the Puerto Rican population growing 10 percent from 17,902 to 19,691.  Pennsylvania’s Puerto Rican population also grew significantly from 312,730 to 339,222, an increase of 8.5 percent.

According to the Statistical Institute of Puerto Rico, people leaving Puerto Rico tend to be younger and more educated than those who chose to remain.  This may stem from Puerto Rico’s unusually high unemployment rate, which significantly exceeds those of the fifty states and has done so for many years.  Economists and others who care about Puerto Rico’s future are concerned about the impact of the Island’s “brain drain.”  There is a common lament that if only Puerto Rico could finally resolve its status debate, officials could dedicate the time and attention necessary to address economic challenges and end the wave of migration from Puerto Rico.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.