Today, Puerto Rico’s online news portal, primerahora.com, ran an article in Spanish confirming that the island continues to face a decreasing population, according to the 2010 US Census and new 2011 figures. In fact, when compared to all 50 states of the Union, Puerto Rico would be ranked by far as the place to have suffered the largest population loss.
Puerto Rico’s population continues to decline and lost another 19,100 people between April 2010 and July 2011, according to estimates offered this week by the United States Census Bureau.
The first estimates published by the agency since the 2010 Census set the population of Puerto Rico as of July 2011 at 3,706,690. This figure is 19,099 fewer people than the estimated figure for April 2010, the month that was used as a basis for comparison.
The document estimated that around 35,000 inhabitants left the island and migrated. Interestingly, the study classifies migration between Puerto Rico and the U.S. as “international.”
For this same period, the Census Bureau estimated an increase of 2.8 million for the U.S., representing an increase of 0.92 percent. The U.S. population was estimated at 311.6 million for July 2011. Only three U.S. states reported a population decline during this period of 15 months and all well below that of Puerto Rico’s loss: Rhode Island (1,300), Michigan (7,400) and Maine (200).
The “natural growth” of the population of Puerto Rico during those months was 16,370 people, as a result of more births than deaths. The large number of people who left the country far exceeded the “natural growth,” casting the negative balance that highlights this report.
Product of Depression
“What has happened in Puerto Rico is that the depression has been loud and long, which is generating a strong migration to the United States,” said economist Jose Alameda.”Furthermore, the pattern of net births is declining,” he said.
“What worries most is that the people of Puerto Rico are usually educated … human capital has been reduced by migration,” he said. “That started between 2005 and 2006 as part of the depression. As there are no jobs for anyone, people migrate,” he said.
The economist expressed concern that as these figures show is that Puerto Rico’s economy is shrinking. “There is less human capital, shops close, and it also creates the problem that property has seen a decrease in value,” Alameda said.
The demographer Raúl Figueroa agreed that the economic situation is causing a negative migration in the country. “There are push factors right now,” he said. “Puerto Rico does not have many pull factors. There is no job or no crime situation that makes it attractive for people to come back, we’re seeing that people (who left the island) are not coming back,” he added.
“We must work for these people to return to Puerto Rico. People who are leaving are many young people under 40 years old, which causes a reduction in the workforce,” said Figueroa.
He noted, moreover, that the increase in migration is also “very particular situation of Puerto Rico, because we can travel freely to the United States.”
He predicted that “the population will continue to decline for several years. Migration is very high and the natural growth has been declining over the past 20 years. Births have been reduced,” he said.