Number Of Puerto Ricans Declines on Island, Growing On U.S. Mainland


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Puerto Ricans have left the financially troubled island for the U.S. mainland this decade in their largest numbers since the Great Migration after World War II, citing job-related reasons above all others.
U.S. Census Bureau data show that 144,000 more people left the island for the mainland than the other way around from mid-2010 to 2013, a larger gap between emigrants and migrants than during the entire decades of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. This escalated loss of migrants fueled the island’s first sustained population decline in its history as a U.S. territory, even as the stateside Puerto Rican population grew briskly.
The search for economic opportunity is the most commonly given explanation for moving by island-born Puerto Ricans who relocated to the mainland from 2006 to 2013, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.1 A plurality (42%) gave job-related reasons for moving stateside, compared with 38% who gave family-related reasons. Among all immigrants from foreign countries who migrated over the same time period, a similar share gave job-related reasons (41%), while 29% said they migrated for family reasons. Mexican-b0rn immigrants were even more likely to cite job-related reasons (62%), while 25% cited family reasons.
Puerto Ricans who arrived from the island since 2000 are different from earlier waves of Puerto Rican migrants. For example, recent migrants are less likely than earlier migrants were to settle in traditional Northeast communities and more likely to live in the South, especially in Florida. More recent Puerto Rican arrivals from the island are also less well off than earlier migrants, with lower household incomes and a greater likelihood of living in poverty.
Most migrants from the island were born there. But among the recent migration wave, the departures of mainland-born Puerto Ricans have played a disproportionate role in the island’s population loss. Overall, mainland-born Puerto Ricans make up 4% of Puerto Ricans on the island, yet from 2000 to 2012, fully a third of the net loss of Hispanic Puerto Ricans on the island was due to departures of mainland-born Puerto Rican
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