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

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 2:55 PM Nuptial Expert Sarkozy Worries About Gay Marriage and the Family
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 22 2014 2:12 PM Crusader, Sans Cape The superhero trappings of Gotham are just a clever disguise.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.