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Puerto Ricans leaving island in record numbers

Economists say things aren't as bad as they were in 2006, but the situation still nothing to write home about -- or to keep residents from leaving home.
By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 12, 2014 at 10:04 AM   |   Comments

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The percentage of people born in Puerto Rico now residing in the United States stands at 34 percent. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, between 2010 and 2013, Puerto Rico witnessed a net loss of 144,000 people -- the island's largest exodus since the "Great Migration" in the years following World War II.

"The search for economic opportunity is the most commonly given explanation for moving by island-born Puerto Ricans," the report's authors write, suggesting the exodus is more than just an attempt to reconnect with relatives in the U.S.

The migration comes as Puerto Rico's economy has slowly rebounded in recent years after a harsh dip, but apparently that rebound hasn't been enough to persuade Puerto Ricans from seeking higher wages and better jobs elsewhere.

Economists say things aren't as bad as they were in 2006, but they're still nothing to write home about -- especially for less-educated, low-skill laborers.

In a 2012 report on the island's flatlining economy, researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York wrote: "Puerto Rico's economic progress has stalled: the Island has been operating below its potential for some time and the competitiveness of the economy continues to deteriorate."

The report also suggests the latest wave of Puerto Rican migrants are less likely than previous émigrés to flock to the Northeast. Recently arrived Puerto Ricans are more frequently found in Florida and the South.

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