Passengers leaving Luis Muñoz Marín Airport

>File photo

The trend started in the early aughts; Puerto Ricans began to migrate to the United States. Today, they constitute the second-largest Hispanic group in the country, accounting for 10 percent of its Latino population, according to an analysis of census data conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Not only that. The survey revealed that in almost two decades the Puerto Rican population in the U.S. increased 65 percent, growing from 3.4 million to 5.6 million. At the same time, the number of Puerto Ricans born on the island and that now live on the mainland grew by 27 percent, from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.6 million in 2017.

About 5.6 million Puerto Ricans lived across the United States, with the population concentrating in Florida (20 percent), New York (20 percent) and New Jersey (8 percent). Across the Atlantic, other 3.4 million boricuas lived on the island besieged by financial problems and plowed by hurricane Maria towards the end of the year.

The wave of expatriates keeps swelling. Last month, an analysis from the Census Information Center at the University of Puerto Rico’s Cayey campus showed that the island’s population shrank a 4.3 percent in 2018, the biggest decline in modern history and a reflection -in part- of the massive migration that took place after Maria.

Hispanic Population Growth

As a result, the island’s population dropped to 3.1 million residents, while in the United States there were 5.7 million Puerto Ricans.

While Puerto Ricans hold second place, Mexicans constitute the largest Latino group in the U.S., with a population of 36.6 million and accounting for 62 percent of the entire Hispanic community in 2017. Five other groups have more than 1 million people each: Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans and Colombians.

Despite Trump’s anti-immigration and anti-Latino discourse, the Hispanic population reached 59.9 million in 2018, up from 47.8 in 2008. This makes Hispanics in the United States the second fastest-growing ethnic group after Asian Americans. Hispanics also made up 18 percent of the U.S. population in 2018, up from 5 percent in 1970.

On Track to Become Largest Group Eligible to Vote

For the first time, Latinos are on track to become the largest racial group to be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Earlier this year, Pew projected that by next year, 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote, just slightly more than the 30 million voters who are black. For Asians, the population is expected to be about 11 million, more than double what it was in 2000.

In Florida, a key state, the number of Hispanic registered voters increased 6.2 percent since the 2016 presidential election, to a record 2.1 million people. Latinos now make up a record 16.4 percent of Florida’s registered voters, up from 15.7 percent in 2016. The number of Hispanic registered voters has grown more than three times as fast as the overall number of registered voters in the past two years.

Puerto Ricans, noted Pew, have been the state’s fastest-growing Hispanic-origin group over the past decade. A total of 208,000 registered Puerto Rican-born voters were eligible to participate in the 2018 midterms. However, turnout didn’t live up to the expectations. Puerto Ricans lagged other Hispanic groups in voting.

While American politicians are flirting with the Latino and Puerto Rican vote to secure a share of this important voting sector, on the island, the demographic decline is causing concerns among policy-makers, academics, demographers, economists and other experts.

Worrisome Outmigration Trend

The situation is so serious that four months after approving a new fiscal plan for the commonwealth, the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) revised its economic and demographic projections, recognizing the complexities and uncertainties surrounding the island’s ongoing debt restructuring process.

In the unexpected about-face, included in a report filed last September as part of the mediation phase, the FOMB pointed out that the fiscal plan endorsed in May assumed the continuation of the pre-hurricane Maria downward trend in population, “decline accelerates over the next five years due to economic uncertainty, resulting in a 2 to 2.5 percent annual decline until fiscal year 2024 and 33 percent total decline by fiscal year 2049.”

The FOMB also recognized that the trend in outmigration and lower fertility rates could result in even more pessimistic downside scenarios, affecting the island’s chances of economic recovery.

Reporter for The Weekly Journal. She is a curious and fearless journalist, equipped with 16-plus years of writing. Cynthia received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and English Literature from Sacred Heart University.

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