Puerto Ricans Are Fleeing the Economic Disaster That Is Their Home Island

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 8 2014 4:14 PM

Puerto Ricans Are Fleeing the Economic Disaster That Is Their Home Island

50800110JR_034
The future is looking dim, kid.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Puerto Rico is a slow-rolling economic wreck. The island’s unemployment rate is around 13.1 percent. Poverty is around 45 percent. And it’s buried in debt.

To top that all off, it’s shrinking. In a new report, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York tracks Puerto Rico’s ongoing population decline. Over nine years, the number of residents has dwindled by 5.5 percent, thanks in part to falling birthrates but mostly to migration. While that kind of dip has occurred in a few U.S. states before, it’s still a rather stark symbol of how dire the situation on the island has become. Worse yet, the exodus has been speeding up in recent years. "Nearly one-third of those born in Puerto Rico live on the U.S. mainland,” the report notes.

shrinking
Advertisement

So who’s leaving the island? The emigrant class is disproportionately made up of young people without college degrees, which means, oddly, that migration is raising the overall level of education among those left on the island. But that’s cold comfort. Population declines can be a symptom of economic malaise. They also perpetuate that malaise by shrinking tax rolls and killing growth, which is pretty much the last thing a small, semi-autonomous island needs when it's struggling to pay back creditors.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

How Did the Royals Win Despite Bunting So Many Times? Bunting Is a Terrible Strategy.

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Oct. 1 2014 6:41 PM The World’s Politest Protesters The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?