SAN JUAN – The population of Puerto Rico declined by almost 7 percent over the past five years to 3.4 million, a trend that is predicted to continue in the near term due to heightened emigration to the U.S. mainland, where economic conditions are better.
The numbers show “a worrying loss of population,” according to what demographer Raul Figueroa told EFE on Thursday.
“The trend allows us to forecast that the island’s population will be smaller and older in the coming years,” said the university professor.
Puerto Rico had a population of 3.47 million people on July 1, 2015, according to the estimate of the U.S. Census Bureau, 6.8 percent fewer than five years ago.
During the 12 months that ended June 30, 2015, Puerto Rico lost 60,706 personas, or 1.7 percent of its population.
Puerto Rico has been mired in a deep recession for about a decade and this fact has spurred increases in unemployment and crime.
That, in turn, has spurred Puerto Ricans to seek better prospected elsewhere, in particular in the United States, given that the island’s residents do not need visas to emigrate and work there.
“There is also a decrease in the population because in some municipalities more deaths than births are being registered,” said Figueroa, attributing that phenomenon to the departure of people of reproductive age.
“The younger generations feel good – in the United States – and are not thinking about returning to Puerto Rico,” said the demographer, adding that this trend could result in an even greater population decline on the island.
He said that the younger people who emigrate don’t have the ties to the place they were born and don’t think about returning to it like previous generations.
Figueroa said to that phenomenon can be added the desire for family reunification, which makes emigrating more and more attractive for those who remain on the island after many members of their families have moved to the United States.