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The intention to emigrate within a period of four years has diminished among Puerto Ricans nowadays, according to the results of El Nuevo Día Poll.

By November 2015 it was estimated that 31% of the Puerto Ricans considered as “very likely” or “quite likely” to move out of the Island within a four year period. This number, however, was reduced to 22%, according to the most recent survey, that was conducted between the 24th and the 26th of May this year.

There are many aspects that can explain this trend, going from the political unsteadiness brought by the United States President, Donald Trump, to the social effect of those who return to Puerto Rico after a migratory trip to the States, main destination of the inhabitants migration.

Demographer Judith Rodríguez stressed that the young population, among the most likely to seek new opportunities abroad, has reduced during this decade. In fact, the segment of inhabitants between 18 and 34 year old, for example, has been decreased by 8% since 2010, according to the data provided by the Census Bureau.

 “There a reduction in terms of the  intention to emigrate. Up to this moment the young population has been decreasing, and that could be a reflexion”, said Rodríguez in an interview with El Nuevo Día.

This reduction does not mean that the migratory rate will diminish. For example, if the migration intention is crystallized for 31% of the population in a four year period, like the Poll suggests, around 1,057,505 inhabitants will have left Puerto Rico by 2021. And that is really far from the current experience.

Recent numbers

For instance, according to the Census, in 2015 around 89,000 inhabitants of Puerto Rico moved to the United States of America. That number represents 2.6% of the population, but that loss of inhabitants must be measured as compared to the amount of people who moved into the Island. At the present time, for each person that arrives in Puerto Rico, there are four of them who leave.

And the expectation is that the difference between emigrants and immigrants will keep growing. As reported by demographer Raúl Figueroa, the main push factor for emigrants is the economic crisis and that hasn’t changed. By contrast, it seems like it will be more severe in the next two years.

 “We have to take a look at the development of the economic situation in particular and to the decisions taken by the government in order to know how the population is going to behave… Anything that happens could be the cause of thousands of people leaving the Island”, said Figueroa.

The push factor

There are already some elements that seem to have the potential to impact negatively in the migration trends. For example, the Fiscal Plan certified by the Fiscal Oversight Board in March proposes a 5,000 temporary jobs cutback for next July.

In the same way, it is estimated that the measures on new collections and cost reduction contained in that fiscal document might lead to an economic contraction of 4% during the 2018 fiscal year. This would be one of the most significant decreases since the beginning of the crisis in 2006. Besides, the published projections for the 2019 fiscal year propose a similar state of affairs. In fact, it’s anticipated that, in the best case scenario, the economy will reach a positive territory by 2024.

 “Right now we are in a state of uncertainty in which it is said one thing or that or another could happen, but the big impact can’t be visualized yet. That uncertainty generates a huge question about how the emigration rate will behave. If the economy does not move forward, that intention to emigrate and emigration itself will continue to be an issue in the years to come”, claimed Rodríguez.

The population is ageing

On his part, Figueroa estimated that, from a migratory perspective, the amount of people that leave the Island could be stabilized to the extent that the young adults’ population keeps reducing. Those are the most eager to look for new opportunities abroad.

 “One would expect to see a reduction in the migration rate as long as the population keeps ageing and the young sector keeps getting smaller. The same would happen with the crime rate, it will be stabilized… I don’t think this will be balanced because of the effects caused by the citizens who return to the island. The return rate is still very low. For every four that leave, only one arrives in Puerto Rico”, said Figueroa.

However, even by keeping the same amount of emigrants every year, the impact on the population would grow increasingly, since the migration phenomenon, along with the low birth rate and the increase in the number of deaths, have caused a progressive decrease in the Puerto Rican population.

In periods prior to big migrations, the birth rate and the increase of the life expectancy made up for the inhabitant migration. That situation does not happen anymore and that is precisely what is causing a fall in population.

 “Even though less people are leaving, their impact is proportionally higher, because the population has reduced throughout the last decade. The piece may be smaller, but so is the cake”, expressed Rodríguez.

The 2015 Perfil del Migrante (Migrant profile in English), the last one published by the Statistical Institute, estimates that the current migration levels are higher than the reported between 1945 and 1960, a period in which the Island lost more than 500,000 people.

Depending on the source of statistical information, it is estimated that, between 2006 and 2015, Puerto Rico lost between 445,000 and 657,000 inhabitants due to emigration, highlights the document.  The Puerto Ricans main destinations are the states of Florida, Texas and New York.

Other data aspects

El Nuevo Día Poll measured the intention to emigrate for several periods. For instance, 16% of the participants perceive as “very likely” or “quite likely” to move abroad within a year. The figure gets 2 percentage points higher when the participant has to evaluate his intention to leave within a two year period. To sum up, the larger the period of time evaluated, the higher the emigration intention expressed by the interviewees.

Both men and women answered this part of the survey conducted by El Nuevo Día in a similar way. However, some significant differences were registered between the differnt age groups. The general trend is that the higher the age, the lower the intention to move abroad. As a matter of fact, 73% of the participants of 65 or more year old saw no possibility to move abroad in the near future.

The age group showing the highest intention to emigrate is composed of adults between 35 and 44 years old, followed by youngsters between 18 and 34 years of age.

In fact, due to its design, the Poll does not take into account the teenage population close to being accepted into college.

They, whether it is in a temporary or permanent way, could also have the intention to emigrate in the next few years.


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