(GFR Media)

WASHINGTON.- The Center for Puerto Rican Studies presented a new estimate that indicates that 198,000 people emigrated from Puerto Rico last year, as a result of the disaster caused by hurricane Maria.

In order to conduct its analysis, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies - part of the Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY) - considered the extraordinary reduction of 39,000 students in public schools enrollment on the island after Maria.

“This rate of emigration from Puerto Rico is unprecedented in Puerto Rican history,” said Dr. Edwin Melendez, director of the center and professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College. “It is an indication of stagnant conditions on the island and the impatience of the population with the governmental response at all levels,” he added.

Carlos Vargas, a researcher at the Center, said that, to make the calculation of 198,000 people, they considered the proportion of the population that studentsaged between 5 and 18 years represent.

Data from the Department of Education show that, by January 2018, after Christmas break, there were 26,000 fewer students in public schools, compared to the beginning of that school year.

Another drop of 13,000 students was recorded at the beginning of the current school year last August, according the Center's researchers.

A few days ago, the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute estimated the net emigration in 77,000 people for calendar year 2017.

However, Vargas warned that after the hurricane there were a couple of months in which the American Community Survey could not be completed in Puerto Rico. In that sense, Vargas thinks that Census data may have underestimated the 2017 emigration as of September.

“Migration was to the United States was already increasing before the storm,” said Dr. Melendez. “The hurricane, however, has magnified the dire circumstances on the island, accelerating the pace of that migration and pushing even more families to leave (the island)”.

According to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, ordered by the Statistics Institute, between September 2017 and February 2018, the most critical and difficult period after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, there 233,586 more people that left Puerto Rico compared to those who came to the island.

It will not be until mid-2019 that the federal census will provide its 2018 population estimates, but the net movement of passengers is another useful tool to measure migratory flow.

Previously, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies calculated in more than 135,000 the island´s net emigration between October 2017 and February 22, 2018, based on Puerto Rican students enrollment in the six states with the largest Puerto Rican population in the mainland.

A few days ago, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies also determined that the Puerto Rican population in the United States increased between 2016 and 2017 to 5.5 million, based on the American Community Survey.

Melendez said that 1,128,000 Puerto Ricans live now in Florida, slightly surpassing New York, with 1,113,000 Puerto Rican residents .

The 2.5 percent growth in the total number of Puerto Ricans in the United States represents an increase three-times faster than the general population.

According to Melendez, Puerto Rican population increases are reflected in states like Massachusetts, North Carolina, Indiana and Washington, confirming a greater dispersion.

But Puerto Ricans have Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania as their main destinations.

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