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Almost 200,000 People Leave Puerto Rico in Year Since Hurricane Maria

By on September 24, 2018

SAN JUAN – Residents of Puerto Rico continued to leave the island in large numbers in the 12 months since Hurricane Maria made landfall. An estimated 198,000 people left in the aftermath of the historic storm, according to figures calculated by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

The Center for Puerto Rican Studies focuses on the interdisciplinary study of the Puerto Rican experience stateside. It collects, preserves and provides access to library resources documenting Puerto Rican history and culture, and seeks to “link scholarship to social action and policy debates,” according to its mission statement.

“This rate of emigration from Puerto Rico is unprecedented in Puerto Rican history,” said Dr. Edwin Meléndez, director of the center and professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College.

The Puerto Rico Department of Education reported that approximately 39,000 fewer students registered in the island’s public schools in fall 2018 than in the prior school year. These figures allowed researchers at the center to estimate the number of school-aged emigrants in the Puerto Rican migration stream.

The enrollment decline represents an additional 13,000 students beyond those who left in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane—there were 26,000 fewer students enrolled in January 2018 than in August 2017.

Puerto Ricans who emigrate from the island continue to relocate primarily to the southern United States—particularly Florida—along with the northeast states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania.

“These states are serving as gateways for Puerto Rican migrants from the Caribbean,” added Meléndez. “But we are also seeing increased dispersal throughout the United States after those migrants arrive at their initial destinations.”

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