Puerto Rico's decline in population this century represents the largest wave of migration from the island since the "Great Migration" in the 1950s and 1960s, according to a report released on Monday by the Pew Hispanic Trends Project.
The island had a net loss to the mainland United States of 192,000 people for the years from the 2000 census to the 2010 census, the report noted, citing U.S. Census Bureau data. From July 2010 to July 2013, about 144,000 more people left the island for the mainland than arrived, Census Bureau population estimates showed.
The number of Puerto Ricans living stateside reached a record 4.9 million in 2012, and since at least 2006, this group has exceeded the population of Puerto Ricans on the islands, which totaled 3.5 million in 2012.
"The search for economic opportunity is the most commonly given explanation for moving by island-born Puerto Ricans who relocated to the mainland from 2006 to 2013," the report said.
The Pew report is a reminder of the deeper demographic woes that the U.S. territory faces as it struggles to restart its moribund economy and tackle a debt load of more than $70 billion.
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