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U.S. Census Data Show Continued Decline in Puerto Rico’s Population

According to data released Thursday by the United States Census Bureau, Puerto Rico lost over 47,000 residents between July 1, 2013, and July 1 2014.  The data represent only the latest in a series of depressing numbers regarding the island’s declining population in the wake of a worsening fiscal crisis.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has seen its population decline at a growing rate for several years now:

  • 2010 Population: 3,721,527
  • 2011 Population: 3,686,771 (-34,756 from 2010)
  • 2012 Population: 3,642,281 (-44,490 from 2011)
  • 2013 Population: 3,595,839 (-46,442 from 2012)
  • 2014 Population: 3,548,397 (-47,442 from 2013)

From April 1, 2010 through July 1, 2014 some 218,137 Puerto Ricans moved away from the island. To further underscore the troubling numbers and put them in greater context, according to the Census Bureau, of 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico, 73 have lost population.

The U.S. Census Bureau also announced last week that in 2014, the nation’s official poverty rate in 2014 was 14.8 percent.  The poverty rate in Puerto Rico was 46.2%.   Older data from the Census Bureau indicate that the percentage of Puerto Ricans living below the poverty level was 45.4% in 2012.

The current economic crisis coupled with the island’s unsettled political status create a situation where the outmigration from Puerto Rico is expected to continue.

Puerto Rico’s territorial status plays a key part in these numbers. Puerto Ricans are American citizens living in an American territory, but lacking in some of the fundamental rights available to American citizens living on the mainland. The working poor in Puerto Ricans are not fully eligible for refundable tax credits.  Puerto Ricans cannot vote for American president, do not have voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and have no representation at all in the U.S. Senate. However, as soon as an American citizen living in Puerto Rico relocates to the mainland, he/she receives all of the rights available to American citizens residing in the 50 states and abroad.

As long as Puerto Rican Americans are treated differently than other American citizens residing on the mainland, the outmigration can be expected to continue.

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