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Survey: Half of Puerto Ricans who left for Florida want to stay

By on July 9, 2018

SAN JUAN – In a survey conducted of Puerto Ricans who left the island in the past several years, nearly half of the participants said they were not returning, according to a study conducted by Florida International University and commissioned by the Puerto Rican Alliance of Florida.

The study involved interviewing about 1,000 Puerto Ricans over the phone about their lives and the reasons for leaving the island, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Among those who arrived after Hurricane Maria, between 2017 and 2018, most were highly educated: about 67 percent have university degrees and up to 7.4 percent had graduate degrees.

However, Dr. Eduardo Gamarra, FIU professor and one of the authors of the study, said the inability to speak English was one of the study’s most surprising findings.

“I think for a lot of people, including myself, we think that English in Puerto Rico has been important enough so that when people migrate there’s not a problem with speaking English,” he told the Orlando Sentinel.

The study divided interviewees based on their arrival date, or between 2017 and 2018; 2015 and 2016; 2012 and 2014; and before 2011. Participants were in Orlando (61 percent), Tampa (22 percent), Miami (11 percent) and Fort Lauderdale (6 percent).

Asked if they would return to the island, 43 percent said no. Asked how long they planned to stay in Florida, nearly 56 percent chose “indefinitely.” Only 1.2 percent said they were staying for three to six months and nearly 2 percent said they are staying for six months to a year. About 41 percent said they didn’t know how long they’d stay.

Among the reasons cited for leaving the island, job opportunities topped the list (19.8 percent), followed by searching for a higher quality of life (19.2 percent), the island’s economic situation (18.3 percent) and being closer to family residing in the states (11.8 percent). More than 75 percent said they had family in Florida before making the move, the data show.

Nearly 18 percent said they did not speak English when they got to Florida, while 16.6 percent said they had trouble finding jobs and 7.6 percent said they faced a higher cost of living, the Sentinel wrote.

The study has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

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