Puerto Rico Lost Population in Last Decade

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico lost population from 2000-2010. (Photo: Oquendo/flickr)

NEW YORK–The Census data released on Thursday told us that Hispanics make up a larger portion of New York City than ever before–they are now about 29 percent of the population. The fine-toothed data detailing the size of the city’s ethnic groups will be released later this spring and Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, is eagerly awaiting information about how many Puerto Ricans are living here. “Puerto Rico, along with Michigan, were the two places in the U.S. that actually lost population, so let’s see what kind of implications that has for the political situation of Latinos in New York,” he said.

Because of the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, almost twice as many Puerto Ricans left the island than returned. In 2010, there were 3,725,789 people on the island, 82,821 fewer than in 2000. (The long recession in Puerto Rico has also prompted a bitter fight over fees and students’ rights on the University of Puerto Rico campus.)

Traditionally, New York has been the most powerful magnet for emigrating Puerto Ricans. They were the first Hispanic group to settle the city in large numbers, and decades ago New York became home to the largest population of Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico. That’s still true, but the community has expanded to Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and beyond.

Following the Puerto Rican immigration wave were hundreds of thousands of Dominicans who eventually surpassed the Puerto Rican community’s size in the city. In 2009, the New York Times reported that Puerto Ricans made up 26 percent of Latinos in the city, and Dominicans 29 percent. In the last decade, New York’s Hispanic neighborhoods have become more diverse, incorporating a growing number of Mexicans and Central and South Americans. With total overall growth of more than 8 percent in the city’s Hispanic population over the last decade, according to the Census, demographers are now waiting to learn whether or not the recent Puerto Rican emigration is one catalyst–or whether Puerto Ricans have bypassed New York for other states and cities.

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