March 24, 2016

Historic population losses continue across Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's population decline has become widespread in recent years

Population losses in Puerto Rico have accelerated in recent years, affecting every corner of the island and continuing the largest outmigration in more than 50 years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released county-level Census Bureau data.

Puerto Rico's population has shrunk since 2000Among Puerto Rico’s counties that saw the largest population losses between 2010 and 2015 was San Juan, home to the island’s capital city and largest metro area. That county’s population declined by 40,000 people (-10%) to 355,000, by far the largest numeric drop of any county. Nine other counties saw population declines of at least 10% during this time.

Only one of the island’s counties, or municipios, saw a significant population increase between 2010 and 2015: Gurabo, in eastern Puerto Rico, grew by 1,900 people (4%) to 47,000.

Overall, the island’s population was an estimated 3.47 million in 2015, down 334,000 from 2000 – a 9% decline. Three-quarters of this population loss has taken place since 2010. Puerto Rico’s population declined by 7% from 2010 to 2015, compared with a 2% loss from 2000 to 2010. 

Why island-born Puerto Ricans leave for U.S. mainlandPopulation growth was once the norm in Puerto Rico. The island’s population grew by 10% from 1980 to 1990, and by 8% from 1990 to 2000. But as the effects of a decade-long economic recession have mounted, Puerto Ricans – who are U.S. citizens at birth – have increasingly moved to the U.S. mainland, with many settling in Florida. In addition, fertility on the island has declined in recent years, adding to population loss.

Economic opportunity is one of the primary drivers for moving to the U.S. mainland, according to Census Bureau data. Among island-born Puerto Ricans who moved to the mainland, 40% said they left mainly for job-related reasons, while 39% cited family-related reasons.

The island’s sustained outmigration and low fertility rates have helped push its population below 1990 levels, when 3.52 million people lived on the island. For now, the island remains above its 1980 population of 3.2 million. However, the Census Bureau projects the population of Puerto Rico will fall to 2.98 million by 2050.

Topics: Latin America, Population Trends, U.S. Census, Hispanic/Latino Demographics

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    I feel that the US government owes Puerto Rico the right to file bankruptcy due to US government Taking away the tax incentives of companies into 2006 and pulling out the military off the island it is a small island no factories no companies no tax incentives just a very small base on the island Puerto Rico is Americans it is a territory they need to do something to help the island people schools are closing hospitals are closing there are no jobs people are leaving their homeland because of bondholders greed high interest

  2. Anonymous1 year ago

    Very good information. I would like to know if you have recent percentages of Puerto Ricans that have moved to US. Also what percentage has moved to Florida. Thank you.

  3. Isol Fernández1 year ago

    Great article. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous1 year ago

    Reducción de la población en Puerto en los últimos cinco años. ¿Cómo afecta nuestra economía? El efecto es significativo para nuestro “continuo” desarrollo económico afectado por las malas administraciones.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Puerto Rico lacks of organize systems that take condideration of it’s citizens. Such as unorganized long waiting time for medical attention, lack of customer service, lack of all in one place and one stop for taking care of government services. The younger generation had the oportunity to travel to the United Stateas and had discover that not only can they find a better paying job with benefits, they are able to take care of their families whithout having a boss on top of then for being off one day. They have discover the conveniences that the United States offers, good public schools, good medical attention among others. Let’s not forget that previous generations didn’t migate because they didn’t know the language. Also, others reasons for migration has been an increase in criminal activity. Of course they worry about their “economy” but at the same time the working conditions are against having healthy families. I haven’t even touch the subject about about corruption, in every form of shape (from the government agencies to the local small business)……… and i know this first hand because i lived there. I’m one of the Puerto Rican’s who migrated to this county for a better life for my children. Asi que Puerto Rico tiene que hacer mejor trabajo lidiando con estos problemas, y a lo mejor las cosas cambian y la gente deja de mudarse………..