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WASHINGTON.- Between September 2017 and February 2018 - the most critical period after hurricanes Irma and María-  passenger outflow to the island surpassed inflow by 233,586 people, according to the net movement of passengers.

In contrast, according to data from the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), ordered by the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics, between September 2016 and February 2017, there were 3,988 more people arriving in the island than those who left.

According to experts, it will not be until the federal census produces new data on the population of Puerto Rico that the latest numbers on emigration will be available.

But, with that information pending, the net movement of passengers is one of the tools to try to measure the migratory flow.

According to official information, a total of 1,493,180 people left the island between September and February, while 1,259,614 people arrived at local airports.

The number of passengers that left and came back to Puerto Rico was, however, basically similar between September 2016 and February 2017, months that include the peak season for tourism, especially from the Northeast of the US, one of the areas severely affected during the past winter.

The chart prepared by the Institute of Statistics indicates that the number of passengers that arrived in Puerto Rico between September 2016 and February 2017 reached 1,999,726, compared to the 1,995,738 that left the island.

The data on the movement of passengers was analyzed by El Nuevo Día as a result of the disclosure of a study by the Teralytics Company, based on tracking data of a cell phone company, indicating that out of the 407,465 residents of Puerto Rico who left the island. 359,815 returned between October and February. It also states that more people have come back to the island than those who travel to the United States.

Data from the Teralytics Company, first published by CityLab, indicates that about 150,000 people in their sample preferred Florida. The first six destinations were counties in that state: Orange (34,858), Osceola (22,610), Miami-Dade (15,233), Hillsborough (13,091), Polk (12,262) and Broward (10,580). The other four counties that were main destinations for those who left the island were: The Bronx, in New York (7,455); Seminole, Florida (7,430); Hampden, Massachusetts (5,767), and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (5,357).

Previously, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies estimated that there may be a total of 135,592 people who left the island between October 2017 and February 22, 2018. The analysis Hunter College Center examined student enrollment in six states representing 80 percent of the communities in which Puerto Ricans live, in addition to the requests made before the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding hurricane damage by people who stated that they are now living in the United States.

Although the use of the cell phone  tracking seems an interesting tool to some experts on demographic issues , it also raises concern among them in terms of the privacy of citizens. But, above all, they warned that it is a limited segment of the movement of people between Puerto Rico and the United States.

"The methodology is not clear, nor was the cell phone carrier disclosed," demographer Raúl Figueroa said, noting that, in terms of the privacy of citizens, it should be known if the cell phone carrier consulted its clients about the use of these data.

Deepak Lamba Nieves, director of Research at the Center for a New Economy (CNE), said there is a need to "develop new analytical tools to measure emigration, not only to have a clearer measurement of quantity, but also of the quality of the migratory flow".

"The most important debate should be about the profile of people leaving and returning," said Lamba Nieves, who also takes data on passenger movement with a grain of salt.

By the end of 2019, Puerto Rico, might have lost 470,335 residents since 2017, which represents 14 percent of its population, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. In comparison, the Center has indicated that between 2006 and 2016, 525,769 residents of Puerto Rico emigrated to the United States.




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