Working Paper

Contemporary Socioeconomic and Political Determinants of Puerto Rican Emigration to the United States

Published 23 November 2023 / By Edwin Irizarry-Mora

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Over the past two decades, Puerto Rico has faced one of the most significant emigration experiences in its contemporary history. Demographers had previously found that at the beginning of the industrialisation programme promoted by the Government (by the end of the 1940s and the entire decade of the 1950s), nearly one-third of its population emigrated, encouraged by the Government, in what was then described as the most dramatic emigration phenomenon within the Caribbean region until that period. Indeed, several states on the eastern coast of the United States –namely New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut—received hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican families and individuals looking for jobs and, presumably, for better living standards. At the turn of the twentieth century, it seemed that such a massive population loss could never be surpassed.

Nevertheless, several socioeconomic and political factors explain why emigration figures have exceeded those of the mid-twentieth century during the first two decades of the twenty-first century. This research paper aims to analyse the underlying aspects of emigration in the recent Puerto Rican scenario. Several scholars have produced revealing research focused on the history and characteristics of Puerto Rican emigration throughout the past and the present century.2 Much of that research points out the colonial nature of the political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States as a fundamental factor behind such a massive emigration experience.


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