Five million Puerto Ricans now living in the mainland U.S.

Five million Puerto Ricans now living in the mainland U.S.

Edition: June 27, 2013 | Volume: 41 | No: 24
Stateside Puerto Rican population outnumbers island population by at least 1.3 million

There are now five million Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S., based on the projected rate of growth between 2011 and 2013, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Center.

In 2011, there were 4.9 million Puerto Ricans living stateside, according to a recent Pew report based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.Caribbean Business

In comparison, the island’s 2011 population was 3.7 million. Puerto Rico’s population has been declining in recent years due to several factors, such as the ongoing recession. As such, Puerto Rico’s current population could be less than the 3.7 million in 2011.

The data means that stateside Puerto Ricans now outnumber those on the island by at least 1.3 million.

Puerto Ricans are the second-largest Latino population group stateside, with nearly one out of every 10 U.S. Hispanics tracing their heritage back to this Caribbean island. Mexicans are the largest group, with 33.5 million residing stateside in 2011, comprising 64.6% of all U.S. Hispanics.

Following Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Spaniards, Hondurans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Argentines. Together, these 14 groups make up 95% of the U.S. Hispanic population. Among them, six Hispanic origin groups have populations greater than one million.

Hispanics are also the largest immigrant group in the U.S. and one of its fastest-growing populations. According to the Census Bureau, the Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010 accounted for more than half of the U.S. population growth. Among the 40.4 million immigrants in the U.S., nearly half (47%) are Hispanic.


The Pew report didn’t touch on the declining population in Puerto Rico, which is due to a range of factors, including the long local economic downturn, an aging population and falling birthrates.

Puerto Rico’s population fell by 2.2% between 2000 and 2010, according to Census statistics. This marked the first decline between census counts and highlighted a demographic shift that represents a range of challenges for the island, including the prospect of less federal funding, increased pressure on the financially ailing public-pension system and a dramatically aging population with fewer financial resources.

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS has been sounding the alarm on Puerto Rico’s population loss for years, and the issue is even raising red flags on Wall Street regarding the island’s economic and fiscal future.

Connected to the “brain-drain” flight of young Puerto Ricans and professionals to the mainland, amid a marathon economic downturn, is a falling birthrate and a quickly aging population that economists and demographers warn will pose increasingly greater challenges for the island. Human resources executives have noted that those problems also extend to local businesses.

Puerto Rico is among just two dozen national statistical areas around the world that lost population between 2005 and 2010, according to a United Nations report issued last year. As the global population topped seven billion after an unprecedented surge of one billion during the past 12 years, Puerto Rico and 23 countries actually saw declines.


Puerto Ricans in Pew’s statistical profile are people who self-identified as Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin; this means they were born in Puerto Rico or they trace their family ancestry to Puerto Rico.

The report details key facts on the Puerto Rican population in the U.S.

Immigration status: Most Puerto Ricans in the U.S.—3.4 million in all—were born in the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Additionally, about 31% of the Puerto Rican population in the U.S. (1.5 million) was born in Puerto Rico. People born in Puerto Rico are also considered native born because they are U.S. citizens by birth. A small number of people of Puerto Rican origin (51,000) were born outside the U.S. or Puerto Rico and weren’t U.S. citizens by birth. They are considered foreign born.

Language: An estimated 82% of Puerto Ricans, ages 5 and older, speak English proficiently. The other 18% of Puerto Ricans report speaking English less than very well, compared with 34% of all Hispanics.

Age: Puerto Ricans are younger than the U.S. population but slightly older than Hispanics overall. The median age of Puerto Ricans is 28; the median ages of the U.S. population and all Hispanics are 37 and 27, respectively.

Marital status: Puerto Ricans ages 15 and older are less likely to be married (35%) than Hispanics overall (43%) and the U.S. population (48%).

Fertility: An estimated 7% of Puerto Rican women ages 15 to 44 gave birth in the 12 months prior to the survey. That was slightly less than the rate for all Hispanic women (8%) and about the same as the overall rate for U.S. women (6%). About 63% of Puerto Rican women ages 15 to 44 who gave birth in the 12 months before the survey were unmarried. That was greater than the rate for all Hispanic women (47%) and the overall rate for U.S. women (38%).

Regional dispersion: Puerto Ricans are concentrated in the Northeast (53%), mostly in New York (23%); and in the South (30%), mostly in Florida (18%). Florida has replaced New York as the primary destination for Puerto Ricans moving stateside, with the biggest infl ux centered along the Interstate 4 corridor around Orlando. The spiking Puerto Rican population is reshaping the political map in the key battleground state.

Educational attainment: Puerto Ricans have higher levels of education than the Hispanic population overall, but lower levels than the U.S. population. Some 16% of Puerto Ricans ages 25 and older—compared with 13% of all U.S. Hispanics and 29% among the U.S. population—have earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

Income: The median annual personal earnings for Puerto Ricans ages 16 and older were $25,000 in the year prior to the survey—greater than the median earnings for all U.S. Hispanics ($20,000) but less than the median earnings for the U.S. population ($29,000).

Poverty status: The share of Puerto Ricans who live in poverty, 28%, is higher than the rate both for the general U.S. population (16%) and for Hispanics overall (26%).

Health insurance: Fully 15% of Puerto Ricans don’t have health insurance compared with 30% of all Hispanics and 15% of the general U.S. population. Moreover, about 5% of Puerto Ricans younger than 18 are uninsured.

Homeownership: The rate of Puerto Rican home-ownership (37%) is lower than the rate for all Hispanics(46%) and the U.S. population (65%).

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