Census figures suggest dramatic exodus from Puerto Rico

Census figures suggest dramatic exodus from Puerto Rico
© Getty Images

Puerto Ricans are relocating to the continental United States in such record numbers that the island has lost 9 percent of its population since 2000.

The U.S. territory's population decline accelerated dramatically since 2010, dropping to 3.5 million from a 2004 peak of 3.8 million, according to a Pew Research analysis of census figures. 


Only one of the island's 78 municipalities has registered any significant population growth in that time frame.

Economic necessity was cited at the main motivating factor for 40 percent of emigrants, and family unification accounted for 39 percent.

Puerto Rico is in the midst of major debt crisis and at risk of defaulting on $73 billion in bonds in the coming weeks. 

The House has begun work on a bill to help the island restructure its debt, and the Supreme Court is hearing a case on how bankruptcy laws apply to the territory.

By federal law, Puerto Rico is not allowed to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy, a procedure used by municipalities in the United States to restructure their untenable debts. A local law that allows the island to restructure its debt is the main point of contention before the Supreme Court.

The current wave of migration has changed the demographic makeup of states like Florida, where the population of more than 1 million Puerto Ricans has more than doubled since 2000.

Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens but can only vote in presidential elections if they reside in the continental United States.