This report explores the demographic and economic characteristics of Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin, both on the island of Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland. It also analyzes characteristics of recent migrants from the island to the mainland and compares them with those of previous waves of migrants.
Puerto Ricans have left the financially troubled island for the U.S. mainland this decade in their largest numbers since the Great Migration after World War II, citing job-related reasons above all others.
U.S. Census Bureau data show that 144,000 more people left the island for the mainland than the other way around from mid-2010 to 2013, a larger gap between emigrants and migrants than during the entire decades of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. This escalated loss of migrants fueled the island’s first sustained population decline in its history as a U.S. territory, even as the stateside Puerto Rican population grew briskly.
On the mainland, Puerto Ricans are the second largest Hispanic origin group (Brown and Patten, 2014), following Mexicans (34 million in 2012) and ahead of Cubans (2 million) and Salvadorans (2 million). Compared with other U.S. Hispanics, Puerto Ricans overall are somewhat worse off on several indicators of well-being. They have lower median household incomes and a lower homeownership rate, and are more likely to be poor. However, Puerto Ricans overall (especially those born on the mainland) have higher education levels than other U.S. Hispanics.
The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are used interchangeably in this report.