Census: PR ‘brain drain’ picking up.

21558 By Caribbean Business

An analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data points to a pick up in the pace of the exodus of young professionals from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland as the island economy continues to lag.

The number of doctors and teachers who left Puerto Rico for the U.S. mainland in quadrupled in a year, according to Census Bureau figures that shed stark light on the so-called “brain drain” from the island.

Four times as many doctors and educators left the island for the states in 2011 than in 2010, according to the latest Puerto Rico Community Survey.

“The rise in the emigration of these professionals grabs attention,” said Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics Executive Director Mario Marazzi Santiago, while noting that the data methodology has a relatively high margin of error.

The survey also showed that the percentage of people who left the island with some sort of college or post-secondary education rose to 50 percent in 2011 from 50 percent the previous year.

The average income of those who left the island surged 25 percent, marking the first time it has topped Puerto Rico’s average income.

The average age of people moving into Puerto Rico rose to 33 in 2011, up from 2010. That was higher than the average age of people who left.

The arrival of older people combined with the exit of young professionals puts pressures on a range of fronts in Puerto Rico including transportation, health care and housing for the elderly, Marazzi said.

The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics takes a deep look at the community survey data in its 2011 Migrant Profile publication.

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS has been sounding the alarm on Puerto Rico’s population loss for years, including two in-depth reports on its website in the past month.

One report (Dec. 21) pointed to new Census Bureau estimates that Puerto Rico’s population dropped by another 27,000 people over the past year. Another (Dec. 14) cited community survey numbers showing that 76,218 people residing in the U.S. lived in Puerto Rico one year earlier, while just 22,649 people on the island in 2011 lived in the states a year earlier.

The latest Census Bureau estimate pegged the island’s population at 3,667,084 (as of July 1), 27,009 fewer residents than registered at the same date in 2011 for a decline of 0.7 percent. The overall U.S. population grew 0.7 percent over the same period, during which only two states — Rhode Island and Vermont — posted population decreases.

A falling population presents a growing range of challenges for Puerto Rico and is even raising red flags on Wall Street regarding the island’s economic and fiscal future.

Slashing the island government’s credit rating, Moody’s Investors Service cited the “declining population” as it pointed to Puerto Rico’s “weak” economic outlook, one of four key drivers of its downgrade in December.

There has been an exodus of Puerto Rico residents amid the marathon local economic recession. Puerto Rico’s population fell by 2.2 percent during the past decade, according to 2010 Census statistics. It marked the first time the island population has declined between census counts and highlighted a demographic shift that represents a range of challenges for the island including the prospect of less federal funding, increased pressure on the financially ailing public-pension system and a dramatically aging population with fewer financial resources.

The Census Bureau numbers released last month show a net loss of 38,364 residents due to migration between July 1, 2011 and July 1, 2012. That number swells to a loss of 83,825 since the 2010 Census.

“The key is emigration. There is the incorrect perception that the ones emigrating are the professionals and better educated. The truth is that pretty much everyone is emigrating,” economist Vicente Feliciano told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS online. “Or rather, everyone young is emigrating. Therefore, the Puerto Rico population is getting older at a rate only seen in the likes of China and Japan.”

There are roughly 4.7 million Puerto Ricans living in the states. Nearly a third of Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin in the 50 states and D.C. were born in Puerto Rico, according an analysis of 2009 American Community Survey data by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The exit of people seeking work in the states and the related issue of “brain drain” have grabbed headlines, but Puerto Rico’s population drop is only partly due to people leaving the island.

Connected to the flight of young Puerto Ricans and professionals to the mainland is a falling local birth rate and a quickly aging population that economists and demographers warn will pose increasingly greater challenges to the island. Human resources executives note that those problems extend to island businesses.

“That means less people working, saving, investing, consuming and contributing to pay off the debts incurred by the commonwealth with bondholders and pensioners,” Sergio Marxuach, policy director for the Center for the New Economy, told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS online.

Puerto Rico is among just two dozen national statistical areas around the world that lost population between 2005 and 2010, according to a United Nations report issued last year.

As the global population topped 7 billion after an unprecedented surge of 1 billion over the past 12 years, Puerto Rico and 23 countries actually saw declines.

They are mostly former Soviet Republics and Eastern European countries. According to the latest U.N. count, of the 24 nations that registered population falls between 2005 and 2010 only Puerto Rico, Germany and some small island nations were not from this region.

Puerto Rico’s population growth slowed to a crawl between 2000 and 2010, posting an average annual increase of less than 0.5 percent during the period, according to Census statistics. That was the smallest population increase over a decade since at least the 1950s when it was 6.3 percent. The island’s population grew 15.4 percent in the 1960s, 17.9 percent in the 1970s, 10.2 percent in the 1980s and 8.1 percent in the 1990s.

Puerto Rico’s population growth rate over the past decade was less than half that of the U.S.

“Demography is a major issue. The retirement system is an example. One generation of politicians promised to its same generation of public sector workers that they did not have to make significant contributions to the their own retirement system because a younger generations was going to pay for it. Regrettably, there are too few young individuals to carry this burden, even in the case that they decide that they want to carry it,” Feliciano said.

The island’s aging population, meanwhile, is getting grayer by the year, according to Census counts.

The percentage of the population over 65 years old was 7.9 percent in 1980, 10 percent in 1990, 14 percent in 2000 and 15 percent in 2010. Projections show that the under-40 population will drop by more than 300,000 by 2020, while the over-40 crowd will grow by 275,000. The population of islanders older than 70 is forecast to rise by 75,000 over that time.

Projections show that by half of the local population will be over age 50 by 2050.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s birth and fertility rates have both fallen sharply since the onset of the island’s economic downturn — further evidence that few forms of birth control are as effective as the economy.

Both rates are among the lowest in the nation, and experts believe the trend is tied to the economy. Women with money worries may feel they can’t afford to start a family or add to it.

Puerto Rico’s birth rate fell to 11.3 births per 1,000 total population in 2010, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. The birth rate was 12.4 at the start of the island island’s economic recession in 2006. Only seven states have lower birth rates.

The fertility rate in Puerto Rico was 54.3 in 2010, down from 57.2 in 2006. The fertility rate is the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. Only four states had lower fertility rates in 2010.

There were 41,159 births in Puerto Rico in 2010, down from 48,597 births in 2006.

The national birth rate dropped for the third straight year, with declines for most ages and all races, according to the federal report.

Courtesy of Caribbean Business


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