A year following Hurricane Maria, both the population and poverty rate declined in Puerto Rico.
These findings released today come from the 2017 and 2018 American Community Surveys (ACS) and Puerto Rico Community Surveys (PRCS).
The number of movers from the territory to the mainland United States increased by more than a third in 2018.
The number of people living in Puerto Rico decreased by 142,000 (4.4%) from 3,337,000 in 2017 to 3,195,000 in 2018.
The number of movers from the territory to the mainland United States increased by more than a third in 2018. About 133,500 people moved, up 36.9% from 97,500 movers the year before.
More than half moved to the South and more than a quarter moved to the Northeast. Their destinations across the United States shifted from 2017 with higher growth rates in the West and South than in the Northeast or Midwest.
More people moved from Puerto Rico to Florida, Indiana, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington in 2018 than in the prior year.
Figure 2 shows states with at least 2,000 people who moved from Puerto Rico in 2017 and 2018, along with states that had a significant change in the number of people moving from Puerto Rico.
One-third (33.5%) of all Puerto Ricans who moved to the mainland United States in 2018 moved to Florida. Popular destinations in previous years, Michigan and Georgia, experienced a decline in the number of Puerto Ricans moving there.
How do we know where people moving from Puerto Rico settled?
The ACS asks respondents whether they lived in the same residence 1 year ago. For respondents who moved within the previous year, the address of their previous residence is collected. Information about current and previous residence locations are coupled to produce a domestic migration flow.
The poverty rate in Puerto Rico decreased by 1.3 percentage points, from 44.4% in 2017 to 43.1% in 2018.
However, poverty in Puerto Rico is still much higher than the U.S. national rate of 13.1% and is more than double the poverty rate of 19.7% in Mississippi, which had among the highest state poverty rates in 2018.
Figure 3 provides some historical perspective on the poverty rate in Puerto Rico.
While the 2018 rate is a decrease from the 2017 estimate, it is not statistically different from the 2016 estimate.
Use caution when making year-to-year comparisons. Here’s why:
Next year, when data from 2019 are available, we will be able to compare those poverty rates to the 2016 estimates to get a better sense of the impact of the storm on poverty.
Data from the ACS can help to explain changes in the poverty rate across 2017 and 2018 as a result of changes in both the composition of the population as well as economic changes within population groups.
While the overall poverty rate decreased from 2017 to 2018, the only age group (Figure 4) to experience a statistically significant decrease in poverty rates in 2018 was the population ages 18 to 64. Their poverty rate fell from 41.9% to 40.5%.
The age composition of the Puerto Rican population has changed, with a 1.1 percentage point decline in the share of children under age 18 and a 1.0 percentage point increase in the share of the older population age 65 or older.
Since children generally have higher poverty rates than those age 65 or older, 56.9% compared to 38.2% for 2018, these changes also impact the overall poverty rate.
Finally, the percentage of people living in rural areas of Puerto Rico decreased as a percentage of the overall population. People in rural areas have higher poverty rates than people in urban areas (52.8% compared to 42.5% in 2018).
The PRCS is part of the ACS, but is customized for Puerto Rico. Due to Hurricane Maria, the 2017 PRCS was suspended from September 2017 through the end of the year, and data for 2017 reflect characteristics of Puerto Rico prior to Hurricane Maria.
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