If it were up to Surey Miranda, she would have never left her family in Puerto Rico. Miranda, a college graduate, says she had little choice.
“It was a challenge to find a job in Puerto Rico,” said Miranda, 24, who graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a political science degree in 2012. “Unfortunately, finding work in government can be challenging, especially since it’s the island’s main source of employment.”
Miranda did everything she was supposed to do: She got her degree, worked as an intern in various places and even landed a part-time position with the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.
Now, Miranda is one of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have left the U.S. territory in recent years in search of a better life in the U.S. mainland.
In 2011 and 2012, about 55,000 residents migrated from the island to the mainland each year, according to the Census Bureau’s Community Survey. The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics is still collecting data for those who left in 2013, but it estimates the numbers are about the same.
While Puerto Ricans have migrated to the United States for several generations, the number of departures from 2000-2010 marks the largest migration wave, at 300,000, since the 1950s, when close to a half-million migrated to the mainland during the entire decade.
So many residents have left the island over the years that there are a million more Puerto Ricans living in the mainland United States (4.9 million as of 2011) than in Puerto Rico (3.7 million).
Why such a massive population shift in recent years? Mario Marazzi, executive director of the Puerto Rican Institute of Statistics, says it’s mainly because of the 2006 recession that is still punishing the island’s economy.
Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate is above 15%, more than double the 7.3% in the mainland, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last month, Standard & Poor’s announced it had cut Puerto Rico’s credit rating to junk status as the U.S. commonwealth faces $70 billion in debt, including the debt from its utility companies.
Last week, in an attempt to avoid financial ruin, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla signed a bill authorizing the sale of $3.5 million in tax-free general obligation bonds. Even if the auction is successful, the bonds are considered pretty risky.
In other words, if you thought Detroit was in trouble, Puerto Rico is much worse mainly for this reason…..