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Puerto Ricans in the United States


Puerto Ricans in the United States

Puerto Ricans in the United States
Total population

1.6% of the U.S. population (2013)[2]

Location of Puerto Rico
Regions with significant populations
throughout the Northeast, Florida, Chicago Metro Area, and Cleveland Metro Area, with growing populations in other Southeastern States
Spanish and English
majority Protestant and Roman Catholic, minority African diasporic religions
Related ethnic groups
Criollos, Mestizos, Mulattos, Taíno, African people, Europeans

A Puerto Rican American (Spanish: puertorriqueño-americano,[3][4] puertorriqueño-estadounidense[5][6]), or Stateside Puerto Rican,[7][8] is a resident of the United States who was "born in Puerto Rico or who traces their family ancestry to Puerto Rico."[9]

At nine percent of the Latino population in the United States, Puerto Ricans are the second largest Hispanic group nationwide, and comprise 1.5% of the entire population of the United States.[10] Although the 2010 Census counted the number of Puerto Ricans living in the United States at 4.6 million, more recent estimates show the Puerto Rican population to be over 5 million, as of 2012.[11][12]

Despite new demographic trends, Texas, and California, among others.


  • Identity 1
  • Migration history 2
    • New York City 2.1
    • Chicago 2.2
  • Demographics of Stateside Puerto Ricans 3
    • Population by state 3.1
      • Relative to the population of each state 3.1.1
      • Relative to the Puerto Rican population nationwide 3.1.2
    • Communities with the largest Puerto Rican populations 3.2
    • Communities with high percentages of Puerto Ricans 3.3
  • Migration trends since 2010 4
    • Dispersion 4.1
    • Concentration 4.2
    • Segmentation 4.3
  • Race 5
  • Socioeconomics 6
    • Income 6.1
      • The Latino market and remittances to Puerto Rico 6.1.1
      • Gender 6.1.2
    • Educational attainment 6.2
    • Social Issues 6.3
  • Political participation 7
    • Voter statistics 7.1
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12


Puerto Ricans have been immigrating to the United States since the 19th century and migrating since 1898 (after it was transferred from Spain to the United States) and have a long history of collective social advocacy for their political and social rights and preserving their cultural heritage. In New York City, which has the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the United States, they began running for elective office in the 1920s, electing one of their own to the New York State Assembly for the first time in 1937.[13]

Important Puerto Rican institutions have emerged from this long history.[14]

  • Puerto Rican Americans
  • Origins of the Young Lords
  • US Puerto Re/envisioning the Diaspora
  • Boricuation Cultural Foundation
  • Centro De Estudios Puertorriquenos/Hunter College
  • Lincoln Park Puerto Rican Oral Histories/Grand Valley State University

External links

  • Whalen, Carmen Teresa, and Víctor Vázquez-Hernández (eds.) (2006). The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).
  • Whalen, Carmen Teresa (2001). From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia: Puerto Rican Workers and Postwar Economics (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).
  • Wakefield, Dan. Island in the City: The World of Spanish Harlem. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 1971. Ch. 2. pp. 42–60.
  • Vargas and Vatajs -Ramos, Carlos. (2006). Settlement Patterns and Residential Segregation of Puerto Ricans in the United States, Policy Report, Vol. 1, No. 2 (New York: Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, Fall).
  • Torres, Andrés and José E. Velázquez (eds) (1998). The Puerto Rican Movement: Voices from the Diaspora (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).
  • Torres, Andres. (1995). Between Melting Pot and Mosaic: African Americans and Puerto Ricans in the New York Political Economy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).
  • Shaw, Wendy (1997). “The Spatial Concentration of Affluence in the United States,” The Geographical Review 87 (October): 546-553.
  • Sánchez González, Lisa (2001). Boricua Literature: A Literary History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (New York: New York University Press).
  • Salas, Leonardo. "From San Juan to New York: The History of the Puerto Rican". America: History and Life. 31 (1990).
  • Safa, Helen. "The Urban Poor of Puerto Rico: A Study in Development and Inequality". Anthropology Today 24 (1990): 12-91.
  • Rodríguez, Victor M. (2005). Latino Politics in the United States: Race, Ethnicity, Class and Gender in the Mexican American and Puerto Rican Experience (Dubuque, IW: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company) (Includes a CD)
  • Rodríguez, Clara E. (2000). Changing Race: Latinos, the Census, and the History of Ethnicity in the United States (New York: New York University Press).
  • Rodriguez, Clara E. (1989). Puerto Ricans: Born in the U.S.A. (Boston: Unwin Hyman).
  • Rivera-Batiz, Francisco L., and Carlos E. Santiago (1996). Island Paradox: Puerto Rico in the 1990s (New York: Russell Sage Foundation).
  • Rivera Ramos. Efrén (2001). The Legal Construction of Identity: The Judicial and Social Legacy of American Colonialism in Puerto Rico (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association).
  • Ribes Tovar, Federico (1970). Handbook of the Puerto Rican Community (New York: Plus Ultra Educational Publishers).
  • Ramos-Zayas, Ana Y. (2003). National Performances: The Politics of Class, Race, and Space in Puerto Rican Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
  • Pérez y González, María (2000). Puerto Ricans in the United States (Westport: Greenwood Press).
  • Pérez, Gina M. (2004). The Near Northwest Side Story: Migration, Displacement, & Puerto Rican Families (Berkeley: University of California Press).
  • Padilla, Elena. 1992. Up From Puerto Rico. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Nieto, Sonia (ed.) (2000). Puerto Rican Students in U.S. Schools (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates).
  • Negrón-Muntaner, Frances and Ramón Grosfoguel (eds) (1997). Puerto Rican Jam: Essays on Culture and Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
  • Negrón-Muntaner, Frances (2004). Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture (New York: New York University Press).
  • Nathan, Debbie (2004). “Adios, Nueva York,” City Limits (September/October 2004).
  • Moreno Vega, Marta (2004). When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio (New York: Three Rivers Press).
  • Meyer, Gerald. (1989). Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician 1902-1954 (Albany: State University of New York Press).
  • Mencher, Joan. 1989. Growing Up in Eastville, a Barrio of New York. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Maldonado, A.W. (1997). Teodoro Moscoso and Puerto Rico’s Operation Bootstrap (Gainesville: University Press of Florida).
  • Lapp, Michael (1990). Managing Migration: The Migration Division of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1948-1968 (Doctoral Dissertation: Johns Hopkins University).
  • Jennings, James, and Monte Rivera (eds) (1984). Puerto Rican Politics in Urban America (Westport: Greenwood Press).
  • Hernández, Carmen Dolores (1997). Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers (Westport, CT: Praeger).
  • Heine, Jorge (ed.) (1983). Time for Decision: The United States and Puerto Rico (Lanham, MD: The North-South Publishing Co.).
  • Haslip-Viera, Gabriel, Angelo Falcón, and Felix Matos-Rodríguez (eds) (2004). Boricuas in Gotham: Puerto Ricans in the Making of Modern New York City, 1945-2000 (Princeton: Marcus Weiner Publishers).
  • Grosfoguel, Ramón (2003). Colonial Subjects: Puerto Ricans in a Global Perspective (Berkeley: University of California Press).
  • Gottmann, Jean (1957). “Megalopolis or the Urbanization of the Northeastern Seaboard,” Economic Geography, Vol. 33, No. 3 (July): 189-200.
  • Fitzpatrick, Joseph P. (1996). The Stranger Is Our Own: Reflections on the Journey of Puerto Rican Migrants (Kansas City: Sheed & Ward).
  • Fears, Darry (2004). "Political Map in Florida Is Changing: Puerto Ricans Affect Latino Vote," Washington Post (Sunday, July 11, 2004): A1.
  • Puerto Ricans: Thirty Years of Progress & Struggle, Puerto Rican Heritage Month 2006 Calendar Journal (New York: Comite Noviembre). (2006).
  • Falcón, Angelo (2004). Atlas of Stateside Puerto Ricans (Washington, DC: Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration).
  • Duany, Jorge (2002). The Puerto Rican Nation on the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press).
  • DeSipio, Louis, Harry Pachon, Rodolfo de la Garza, and Jongho Lee (2003). Immigrant Politics at Home and Abroad: How Latino Immigrants Engage the Politics of Their Home Communities and the United States (Los Angeles: Tomás Rivera Policy Institute)
  • DeSipio, Louis, and Adrian D. Pantoja (2004). “Puerto Rican Exceptionalism? A Comparative Analysis of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadoran and Dominican Transnational Civic and Political Ties” (Paper delivered at The Project for Equity Representation and Governance Conference entitled “Latino Politics: The State of the Discipline,” Bush Presidential Conference Center, Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, April 30-May 1, 2004)
  • de la Garza, Rodolfo O., and Louis DeSipio (eds) (2004). Muted Voices: Latinos and the 2000 Elections (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.).
  • De Genova, Nicholas and Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas (2003). Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and the Politics of Race and Citizenship (New York: Routledge).
  • Dávila, Arlene (2004). Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and the Neoliberal City (Berkeley: University of California Press).
  • Cordasco, Francesco and Eugene Bucchioni (1975). The Puerto Rican Experience: A Sociological Sourcebook (Totowa, NJ: Littlefied, Adams & Co.).
  • Del Torre, Patricia (2012). "Los grandes protagonistas de Puerto Rico: Caras 2012, Editorial Televisa Publishing International: Special edition on Jennifer Lopez, Calle 13, Giannina Braschi, Ricky Martin, et al.
  • Christenson, Matthew (2003). Evaluating Components of International Migration: Migration Between Puerto Rico and the United States (Working Paper #64, Population Division, U.S. Bureau of the Census).
  • Cruz Báez, Ángel David, and Thomas D. Boswell (1997). Atlas Puerto Rico (Miami: Cuban American National Council).
  • Cortés, Carlos (ed.)(1980). Regional Perspectives on the Puerto Rican Experience (New York: Arno Press).
  • Constantine, Consuela. “Political Economy of Puerto Rico, New York.” The Economist. 28 (1992).
  • Chenault, Lawrence R. (1938). The Puerto Rican Migrant in New York City: A Study of Anomie (New York: Columbia University Press).
  • Census Bureau (2004b). Ancestry: 2000 (Census 2000 Brief) (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census).
  • Census Bureau (2004a). Global Population Profile: 2002 (Washington, D.C.: International Programs Center [IPC], Population Division, U.S. Bureau of the Census) (PASA HRN-P-00-97-00016-00).
  • Census Bureau (2003). 2003 Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) Supplement: Current Population Survey, prepared by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census).
  • Census Bureau (2001). The Hispanic Population (Census 2000 Brief) (Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of the Census, May).
  • Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (2003), Special Issue: “Puerto Rican Politics in the United States,” Centro Journal, Vol. XV, No. 1 (Spring).
  • Cayo-Sexton, Patricia. 1965. Spanish Harlem: An Anatomy of Poverty. New York: Harper and Row
  • Camara-Fuertes, Luis Raúl (2004). The Phenomenon of Puerto Rican Voting (Gainesville: University Press of Florida).
  • Briggs, Laura (2002). Reproducing Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press).
  • Braschi, Giannina (1998). Yo-Yo Boing! Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press.
  • Bourgois, Philippe. In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2003
  • Bendixen & Associates (2002). Baseline Study on Mainland Puerto Rican Attitudes Toward Civic Involvement and Voting (Report prepared for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, March–May).
  • Bell, Christopher (2003). Images of America: East Harlem (Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia).
  • Baker, Susan S. (2002). Understanding Mainland Puerto Rican Poverty (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).
  • Acosta-Belén, Edna, and Carlos E. Santiago (eds.) (2006). Puerto Ricans in the United States: A Contemporary Portrait (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers).
  • Acosta-Belén, Edna, et al. (2000). “Adíos, Borinquen Querida”: The Puerto Rican Diaspora, Its History, and Contributions (Albany, NY: Center for Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, State University of New York at Albany).


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  95. ^ Ted Sherman (November 4, 2013). "Luis Quintana sworn in as Newark's first Latino mayor, filling unexpired term of Cory Booker". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved November 10, 2013. 
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  97. ^ Camara-Fuertes 2004
  98. ^ Falcón in Heine 1983: Ch. 2
  99. ^ Vargas-Ramos examines this relationship for Puerto Ricans in New York City in Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños 2003: 41-71


  1. ^ Percentage of the state population that identifies itself as Puerto Rican relative to the state/territory" population as a whole.
  2. ^ Percentage of Puerto Rican residents in each state relative to the Puerto Rican population in the United States as a whole. Puerto Rican population in the U.S. according to the 2010 U.S. Census: 4,623,716


See also

  • Age: the average age of voters was 45.3 years, compared to 38.5 years for eligible nonvoters.
  • Education: those without a high school diploma had a turnout rate of 42.5 percent, while for those with a graduate degree, it was 81.0 percent.
  • Birthplace: for those born stateside it was 48.9 percent, compared to 52.0 percent for those born in Puerto Rico.
  • Marriage status: for those who were married it was 62.0 percent, while those who were never married managed 33.0 percent.
  • Military service: for those who ever served in the US military, the turnout rate was 72.1 percent, compared to 48.6 percent for those who never served.

There were a number of other socio-demographic characteristics where turnout differences also existed, such as:

  • Income: the turnout rate for those with incomes less than $10,000 was 37.7 percent, while for those earning $75,000 and above, it was 76.7 percent.
  • Employment: 36.5 percent of the unemployed voted, versus 51.2 percent for the employed. The rate for those outside of the labor force was 50.6 percent, probably reflecting the disproportionate role of the elderly, who generally have higher turnout rates.
  • Union membership: for union members it was 51.3 percent, while for nonunion members it was 42.6 percent.
  • Housing: for homeowners it was 64.0 percent, while it was 41.8 percent for renters.

When the relationship of various factors to the turnout rates of stateside Puerto Ricans in 2000 is examined, socioeconomic status emerges as a clear factor.[99] For example, according to the Census:

Voter statistics

The reasons for the differences in Puerto Rican voter participation have been an object of much discussion, but relatively little scholarly research.[98]

This low level of electoral participation is in sharp contrast with voting levels in Puerto Rico, which are much higher than that not only of this community, but also the United States as a whole.[97]

Note: C-VAP stands for Citizen Voting Age Population (Citizens 18 years of age and older) (graphic by Angelo Falcón)

To address this problem, the government of Puerto Rico has, since the late 1980s, launched two major voter registration campaigns to increase the level of voter participation of stateside Puerto Rican. While Puerto Ricans have traditionally been concentrated in the Northeast, coordinated Latino voter registration organizations such as the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (based in the Midwest), have not concentrated in this region and have focused on the Mexican-American voter. The government of Puerto Rico has sought to fill this vacuum to insure that stateside Puerto Rican interests are well represented in the electoral process, recognizing that the increased political influence of stateside Puerto Ricans also benefits the island.

There are various ways in which stateside Puerto Ricans have exercised their influence. These include protests, campaign contributions and lobbying, and voting. Compared to the United States, voter participation by Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico is very large. However, many see a paradox in that this high level of voting is not echoed stateside.[96] There, Puerto Ricans have had persistently low voter registration and turnout rates, despite the relative success they have had in electing their own to significant public offices throughout the United States.

There are four Puerto Rican members of the United States House of Representatives: Democrats Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, José Enrique Serrano of New York, and Nydia Velázquez of New York, and Republican Raúl Labrador of Idaho, complementing the one Resident Commissioner elected to that body from Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans have also been elected as mayors in three major cities: Miami, Hartford, and Camden. Luis A. Quintana, born in Añasco, Puerto Rico, was sworn in as the first Latino mayor of Newark, New Jersey in November 2013, assuming the unexpired term of Cory Booker, who vacated the position to become a U.S. Senator from New Jersey.[95]

The Puerto Rican community has organized itself to represent its interests in stateside political institutions for close to a century.[92] In New York City, Puerto Ricans first began running for public office in the 1920s. In 1937, they elected their first government representative, Oscar Garcia Rivera, to the New York State Assembly.[93] In Massachusetts, Puerto-Rican Nelson Merced became the first Hispanic elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and the first Hispanic to hold statewide office in the commonwealth.[94]

Puerto Rican Democratic members of the United States Congress Luis Gutierrez (left), José Enrique Serrano (center), and Nydia Velázquez speaking at the Encuentro Boricua Conference at Hostos Community College in New York City, 2004

Political participation

The majority of Puerto Ricans are attaining degrees, and are productive in all areas of academics. Many who reside in New York City have become Lawyers, and politicians.[14][76][77][78][79][80][81] The Puerto Rican community is also one of the most segregated ethnic groups in the country.[82][83][84][85] The stateside Puerto Rican community has partnered with the African American community, particularly in cities such as New York and Philadelphia, not only because of cultural similarites, but also to combat racism and disenfranchisement of the mid to late 20th century in their communities as a unified force.[86][87][88][89][90] Though, often perceived as largely poor, there is evidence of growing economic clout, as stated earlier.[73][91]

Social Issues

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, while in Puerto Rico more than 20% of Hispanics have a bachelor's degree, only 16% of stateside Puerto Ricans did as of March 2012.[10]

Stateside Puerto Ricans, along with other US Latinos, have experienced the long-term problem of a high school dropout rate that has resulted in relatively low educational attainment.[14]

Educational attainment

Stateside Puerto Rican men were in a weaker position in comparison with men from other racial-ethnic groups. They were closer to income parity to white men than men who were Dominicans (62.3 percent), and Central and South Americans (58.3 percent). Although very close to income parity with blacks (65.5 percent), stateside Puerto Rican men fell below Mexicans (68.3 percent), Cubans (75.9 percent), other Hispanics (75.1 percent), and Asians (100.7 percent).

Stateside Puerto Rican women were closer to income parity with white women than were women who were Dominicans (58.7 percent), Central and South Americans (68.4 percent), but they were below Cubans (86.2 percent), "other Hispanics" (87.2 percent), blacks (83.7 percent), and Asians (107.7 percent).

The average income in 2002 of stateside Puerto Rican men was $36,572, while women earned an average $30,613, 83.7 percent that of the men. Compared to all Latino groups, whites, and Asians, stateside Puerto Rican women came closer to achieving parity in income to the men of their own racial-ethnic group. In addition, stateside Puerto Rican women had incomes that were 82.3 percent that of white women, while stateside Puerto Rican men had incomes that were only 64.0 percent that of white men.


The income disparity between the stateside community and those living on the island is not as great as those of other Latin-American countries, and the direct connection between second-generation Puerto Ricans and their relatives is not as conducive to direct monetary support. Many Puerto Ricans still living in Puerto Rico also remit to family members who are living stateside.

The full extent of the stateside Puerto Rican community’s contributions to the economy of Puerto Rico is not known, but it is clearly significant. The role of remittances and investments by Latino immigrants to their home countries has reached a level that it has received much attention in the last few years, as countries like Mexico develop strategies to better leverage these large sums of money from their diasporas in their economic development planning.[75]

One important question this raises is the degree to which stateside Puerto Ricans contribute economically to Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Planning Board estimated that remittances totaled $66 million in 1963.[74]

The combined income for stateside Puerto Ricans is a significant share of the large and growing Latino market in the United States and has been attracting increased attention from the media and the corporate sector. In the last decade or so, major corporations have discovered the so-called "urban markets" of blacks and Latinos that had been neglected for so long. This has spawned a cottage industry of marketing firms, consultants and publications that specialize in the Latino market.

The Latino market and remittances to Puerto Rico

The stateside Puerto Rican community has usually been characterized as being largely poor and part of the urban underclass in the United States. Studies and reports over the last fifty years or so have documented the high poverty status of this community.[72] However, the picture at the start of the 21st century also reveals significant socioeconomic progress and a community with a growing economic clout.[73]



According to the 2010 US census, of the stateside Puerto Rican population, about 53.1% self-identified as white, about 8.7% self-identified as black, about 0.9% as American Indian, about 0.5% as Asian, and 36.7% as mixed or other.[59] Though over half self-identified as white, the Puerto Rican population is largely made up of Multi-racials, most Puerto Ricans are mixed to varying degrees, usually of European, African, and indigenous Taino ancestry.[60][61][62][63][64][65] Though, there are significant numbers of whites and blacks within the Puerto Rican population as well.[66] Historically, under Spanish and American rule, Puerto Rico underwent a whitening process, in particular, the island had laws like the Regla del Sacar, in which people of mixed-race origin were identified as "white", the opposite of the One-drop rule in the United States.[61][67][68][69][70][71] Puerto Ricans of all races share a common Puerto Rican culture, and this mixture of European, African, and indigenous, is not only reflected in the physical appearance of most Puerto Ricans, but also within Puerto Rican culture.


These shifts in the relative sizes of Latino populations have also changed the role of the stateside Puerto Rican community.[58] Thus, many long-established Puerto Rican institutions have had to revise their missions (and, in some cases, change their names) to provide services and advocacy on behalf of non-Puerto Rican Latinos. Some have seen this as a process that has made the stateside Puerto Rican community nearly invisible as immigration and a broader Latino agenda seem to have taken center stage, while others view this is a great opportunity for stateside Puerto Ricans to increase their influence and leadership role in a larger Latino world.


Stateside Puerto Ricans are disproportionately clustered in what has been called the "Boston-New York-Washington Corridor" along the East Coast. This area, coined a "megalopolis" by geographer Jean Gottman in 1956, is the largest and most affluent urban corridor in the world, being described as a "node of wealth ... [an] area where the pulse of the national economy beats loudest and the seats of power are well established."[57] With major world class universities clustered in Boston and stretching throughout this corridor, the economic and media power and international power politics in New York City, and the seat of the federal government in Washington, DC, also a major global power center.

  • Bridgeport, Connecticut (score of 73)
  • Hartford, Connecticut (70)
  • New York City (69)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (69)
  • Newark, New Jersey (69)
  • Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria, Ohio (68)

Residential segregation is a cause of stateside Puerto Rican population concentration. While blacks are the most residentially segregated group in the United States, stateside Puerto Ricans are the most segregated among US Latinos.[56]


The most dramatic Puerto Rican population growth in the 1990s and 2000s, as it was for Latinos as a whole, took place in smaller cities and towns, such as Allentown, Pennsylvania,[55] and other metro areas, such as Houston, Texas, the DC Metro Area, and the Hartford, Connecticut-Springfield, Massachusetts region. But while this type of growth outside of central cities is usually associated with suburbanization and upward mobility, in the Puerto Rican case, this has not been the case. While there was an element of upward mobility, there was also a dispersal of the poor and low wage workers. At the point when stateside Puerto Ricans began relocating to the suburbs, these areas had begun in general to take on many of the negative characteristics of the urban centers: housing and school segregation, poverty, rising crime and so on.

New York City was the center of the stateside Puerto Rican community for most of the 20th century. However, it is not clear whether these settlement changes can be characterized as simple population dispersal. Puerto Rican population settlements today are less concentrated than they were in places like New York City, Chicago, and a number of cities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Like other groups, the theme of "dispersal" has had a long history with the stateside Puerto Rican community.[53] More recent demographic developments appear at first blush as if the stateside Puerto Rican population has been dispersing in greater numbers. Duany had described this process as a “reconfiguration” and termed it the “nationalizing” of this community throughout the United States.[54]


New York has resumed its net in-migration of Puerto Rican Americans since 2010, a dramatic reversal from being the only state to register a decrease in its Puerto Rican population between 1990 and 2000. The Puerto Rican population of New York State, still the largest in the United States, is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to have increased from 1,070,558 in 2010 to 1,103,067 in 2013; Florida witnessed an even larger increase, from 847,550 in 2010 to 987,663 in 2013.[52] Unlike the initial pattern of migration several decades ago, this second Puerto Rican migration into New York and surrounding states is being driven by movement not only into New York City proper, but also into the city's surrounding suburban areas, including Northern New Jersey, such that the New York City metropolitan area gained the highest number of additional Puerto Rican Americans of any metropolitan area since 2010, to 1,265,712 in 2013.[37] Philadelphia and Orlando also witnessed large increases in their Puerto Rican populations between 2010 and 2013, and now have some of the fastest growing Puerto Rican populations in the country.

Puerto Rican migration patterns, 1995-2000 (graphic by Angelo Falcón)
Puerto Rican migration increases dramatically to US South, while migration also continues into the geographically dense Northeast.

Migration trends since 2010

  1. Rochester, New York: 13.2 percent
  2. Orlando, Florida: 13.1 percent
  3. Newark, New Jersey: 13.0 percent
  4. Jersey City, New Jersey: 10.4 percent
  5. New York City, New York: 8.9 percent
  6. Buffalo, New York: 8.4 percent
  7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 8.0 percent
  8. Cleveland, Ohio: 7.4 percent
  9. Tampa, Florida: 7.2 percent
  10. Boston, Massachusetts: 4.9 percent

The 10 large cities (over 200,000 in population) with the highest percentages of Puerto Rican residents include:[50]

  1. Holyoke, MA - 44.70%
  2. Buenaventura Lakes, FL - 44.55%
  3. Azalea Park, FL - 36.50%
  4. Poinciana, FL - 35.82%
  5. Meadow Woods, FL - 35.11%
  6. Hartford, CT - 33.66%
  7. Springfield, MA - 33.19%
  8. Kissimmee, FL - 33.06%
  9. Reading, PA - 31.97%
  10. Camden, NJ - 30.72%
  11. New Britain, CT - 29.93%
  12. Lancaster, PA - 29.23%
  13. Vineland, NJ - 26.74%
  14. Union Park, FL - 25.81%
  15. Allentown, PA - 25.11%
  16. Windham, CT - 23.99%
  17. Lebanon, PA - 23.87%
  18. Perth Amboy, NJ - 23.79%
  19. Southbridge, MA - 23.08%
  20. Amsterdam, NY - 22.80%
  21. Harlem Heights, FL - 22.63%
  22. Waterbury, CT - 22.60%
  23. Lawrence, MA - 22.20%
  24. Dunkirk, NY - 22.14%
  25. Bridgeport, CT - 22.10%
  26. Sky Lake, FL - 22.09%

The top 25 US communities with the highest percentages of Puerto Ricans as a percent of total population (Source: Census 2010)

Communities with high percentages of Puerto Ricans

  1. New York City, NY - 723,621
  2. Philadelphia, PA - 121,643
  3. Chicago, IL - 102,703
  4. Springfield, MA - 50,798
  5. Hartford, CT - 41,995
  6. Newark, NJ - 35,993
  7. Bridgeport, CT - 31,881
  8. Orlando, FL - 31,201
  9. Boston, MA - 30,506
  10. Allentown, PA - 29,640
  11. Cleveland, OH - 29,286
  12. Reading, PA - 28,160
  13. Rochester, NY - 27,734
  14. Jersey City, NJ - 25,677
  15. Waterbury, CT - 24,947
  16. Milwaukee, WI - 24,672
  17. Tampa, FL - 24,057
  18. Camden, NJ - 23,759
  19. Worcester, MA - 23,074
  20. Buffalo, NY - 22,076
  21. New Britain, CT - 21,914
  22. Jacksonville, FL - 21,128
  23. Paterson, NJ - 21,015
  24. New Haven, CT - 20,505
  25. Yonkers, NY - 19,875

The top 25 US communities with the highest populations of Puerto Ricans (Source: Census 2010)

  • Chicago: 102,703 Puerto Rican residents, as of 2010;[48] compared to 113,055 in 2000, decrease of 10,352; representing 3.8% of the city's total population and 15% of the city's Hispanic population, are the city's second largest Hispanic group.
  • Philadelphia: 121,643 Puerto Rican residents, as of 2010;[48] compared to 91,527 in 2000, increase of 30,116; representing 8.0% of the city's total population and 68% of the city's Hispanic population, are the city's largest Hispanic group.
  • New York City: 723,621 Puerto Rican residents, as of 2010;[48] compared to 789,172 in 2000, decrease of 65,551; representing 8.9% of the city's total population and 32% of the city's Hispanic population, are the city's largest Hispanic group.

Communities with the largest Puerto Rican populations

The Puerto Rican flag in East Harlem in New York City, outside of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, winter 2005 (photo by Angelo Falcón).
  1. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA MSA - 1,177,430
  2. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL MSA - 269,781
  3. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD MSA - 238,866
  4. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA - 207,727
  5. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI MSA - 188,502
  6. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA - 143,886
  7. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH MSA - 115,087
  8. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT MSA - 102,911
  9. Springfield, MA MSA - 87,798
  10. New Haven-Milford, CT MSA - 77,578

The largest populations of Puerto Ricans are situated in the following metropolitan areas (Source: Census 2010):

Even with such movement of Puerto Ricans from traditional to non-traditional states, the Northeast continues to dominate in both concentration and population.

State/Territory Puerto Rican-American
Population (2010 Census)[48][49]
Percentage[note 2]
New York 1,070,558 23.15
Florida 847,550 18.33
New Jersey 434,092 9.39
Pennsylvania 366,082 7.92
Massachusetts 266,125 5.76
Connecticut 252,972 5.47
California 189,945 4.11
Illinois 182,989 3.96
Texas 130,576 2.82
Ohio 94,965 2.05
Virginia 73,958 1.60
Georgia 71,987 1.56
North Carolina 71,800 1.55
Wisconsin 46,323 1.00
Hawaii 44,116 0.95
Maryland 42,572 0.92
Michigan 37,267 0.81
Rhode Island 34,979 0.76
Arizona 34,787 0.75
Indiana 30,304 0.66
South Carolina 26,493 0.57
Washington 25,838 0.56
Colorado 22,995 0.50
Delaware 22,533 0.49
Tennessee 21,060 0.46
Nevada 20,664 0.45
Missouri 12,236 0.27
Alabama 12,225 0.26
Oklahoma 12,223 0.26
New Hampshire 11,729 0.25
Louisiana 11,603 0.25
Kentucky 11,454 0.25
Minnesota 10,807 0.23
Kansas 9,247 0.20
Oregon 8,845 0.19
New Mexico 7,964 0.17
Utah 7,182 0.16
Mississippi 5,888 0.13
Iowa 4,885 0.11
Arkansas 4,789 0.10
Alaska 4,502 0.10
Maine 4,377 0.10
West Virginia 3,701 0.08
Nebraska 3,242 0.07
DC 3,129 0.07
Idaho 2,910 0.06
Vermont 2,261 0.05
Montana 1,491 0.03
South Dakota 1,483 0.03
Wyoming 1,026 0.02
North Dakota 987 0.02
USA 4,623,716 100

Puerto Rican population by state, showing the percentage of Puerto Rican residents in each state relative to the Puerto Rican population in the United States as a whole.

Relative to the Puerto Rican population nationwide

The Puerto Rican population in the United States, 2000 (graphic by Angelo Falcón).
Map of US states by Puerto Rican percentage

Although, Puerto Ricans constitute over 9 percent of Hispanics in the nation, there are some states where Puerto Ricans make up over half of the Hispanic population, including Connecticut where 57 percent of the state's Hispanics are of Puerto Rican descent and Pennsylvania where Puerto Ricans make up 53 percent of the Hispanics. Other states where Puerto Ricans make up a remarkably large portion of the Hispanic community include Massachusetts, where they make up 40 percent of all Hispanics, Rhode Island at 39 percent, New York at 34 percent, New Jersey at 33 percent, Delaware at 33 percent, Ohio at 27 percent, and Florida at 21 percent of all Hispanics in that state.[48][50] The U.S. States where Puerto Ricans were the largest Hispanic group were New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Hawaii.[48]

The states with the highest net inflow of Puerto Ricans from the island between 2000 and 2010 included Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.[10] New York, which has joined this list since 2010, remains a major destination for Puerto Rican migrants, though only a third of recent Puerto Rican arrivals went to New York between 2000 and 2010.[51]

State/Territory Puerto Rican-American
Population (2010 Census)[48][49]
Percentage[note 1][50]
 Alabama 12,225 0.3
 Alaska 4,502 0.6
 Arizona 34,787 0.5
 Arkansas 4,789 0.2
 California 189,945 0.5
 Colorado 22,995 0.5
 Connecticut 252,972 7.1
 Delaware 22,533 2.5
 District of Columbia 3,129 0.5
 Florida 847,550 4.5
Georgia 71,987 0.7
 Hawaii 44,116 3.2
 Idaho 2,910 0.2
 Illinois 182,989 1.4
 Indiana 30,304 0.5
 Iowa 4,885 0.2
 Kansas 9,247 0.3
 Kentucky 11,454 0.3
 Louisiana 11,603 0.3
 Maine 4,377 0.3
 Maryland 42,572 0.7
 Massachusetts 266,125 4.1
 Michigan 37,267 0.4
 Minnesota 10,807 0.2
 Mississippi 5,888 0.2
 Missouri 12,236 0.2
 Montana 1,491 0.2
 Nebraska 3,242 0.2
 Nevada 20,664 0.8
 New Hampshire 11,729 0.9
 New Jersey 434,092 4.9
 New Mexico 7,964 0.4
 New York 1,070,558 5.5
 North Carolina 71,800 0.8
 North Dakota 987 0.1
 Ohio 94,965 0.8
 Oklahoma 12,223 0.3
 Oregon 8,845 0.2
 Pennsylvania 366,082 2.9
 Rhode Island 34,979 3.3
 South Carolina 26,493 0.6
 South Dakota 1,483 0.2
 Tennessee 21,060 0.3
 Texas 130,576 0.5
 Utah 7,182 0.3
 Vermont 2,261 0.4
 Virginia 73,958 0.9
 Washington 25,838 0.4
 West Virginia 3,701 0.2
 Wisconsin 46,323 0.8
 Wyoming 1,026 0.2
USA 4,623,716 1.5

The Puerto Rican population by state, showing the percentage of the state's population that identifies itself as Puerto Rican relative to the state/territory population as a whole is shown in the following table.

Relative to the population of each state

Population by state

In 1950, about a quarter of a million Puerto Rican natives lived "stateside", or in the United States. In March 2012 that figure had risen to about 1.5 million. That is, slightly less than a third of the 5 million Puerto Ricans living stateside were born on the island.[11][12] Puerto Ricans are also the second-largest Hispanic group in the USA after those of Mexican descent.[10]

Demographics of Stateside Puerto Ricans

Puerto Ricans first arrived in the early part of the 20th century from more affluent families to study at colleges or universities. In the 1930s there was an enclave around 35th and Michigan. In the 1950s two small barrios emerged known as la Clark and La Madison just North and West of Downtown, near hotel jobs and then where the factories once stood. These communities were displaced by the city as part of their slum clearance. In 1968 a turnt around gang, the Young Lords mounted protests and demonstrations and occupied several buildings of institutions demanding that they invest in low income housing.[42] Humboldt Park is home to the one of the largest Puerto Rican communities in Chicago and is known as "Little Puerto Rico" or Paseo Boricua.[43][44][45][46]


Division Street (Paseo Boricua) in Chicago, facing east from Mozart Street, one-half block west of California Avenue.

New York City also became the mecca for freestyle music in the 1980s, of which Puerto Rican singer-songwriters represented an integral component.[40] Puerto Rican influence in popular music continues in the 21st century, encompassing major artists such as Jennifer Lopez.[41]

Philippe Bourgois, an anthropologist who has studied Puerto Ricans in the inner city, suggests that "the Puerto Rican community has been one of the most minorities that have been successful at moving away from early poverty ."[39] The Puerto Rican population no longer resides at East Harlem which remains one of the poorest areas in the US cities. Puerto Ricans in the 21st century have successfully intiegrated into American society despite much prejudice towards them in the early 20th century.

For a long time, Spanish Harlem (East Harlem) and Loisaida (Lower East Side) were the two major Puerto Rican communities in the city, but during the 1960s and 1970s predominately Puerto Rican neighborhoods started to spring up in the Bronx because of its proximity to East Harlem and in Brooklyn because of its proximity to the Lower East Side. There are significant Puerto Rican communities in all five boroughs.

Between the 1950s and the 1980s, large numbers of Puerto Ricans of mixed European ancestry migrated to New York, especially to the Bronx, and the Spanish Harlem and Loisaida neighborhoods of Manhattan. Labor recruitment was the basis of this particular community. In 1960, the number of stateside Puerto Ricans living in New York City as a whole was 88%, with most (5%)iving in East Harlem.[38] They helped others settle, find work, and build communities by relying on social networks containing friends and family.

National Puerto Rican Parade in New York City, 2005.

New York City

Puerto Ricans migrated in search of higher-wage jobs, first to New York City, and later to other cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston.[34] However, in more recent years, there has been a resurgence in migration from Puerto Rico to New York and New Jersey, with an apparently multifactorial allure to Puerto Ricans, primarily for economic and cultural considerations,[35][36] with the Puerto Rican population of the New York City Metropolitan Area increasing from 1,177,430 in 2010 to a Census-estimated 1,265,712 in 2013,[37] maintaining its status as the largest metropolitan concentration and cultural center for Puerto Rican Americans by a significant margin on the U.S. mainland. Greater Orlando's Puerto Rican population, at over 320,000 in 2013, was second only to the New York metropolitan area.[37]

U.S. political and economic interventions in Puerto Rico created the conditions for emigration, "by concentrating wealth in the hands of US corporations and displacing workers."[32] Policymakers promoted "colonization plans and contract labour programs to reduce the population. US employers, often with government support, recruited Puerto Ricans as a source of low-wage labour to the United States and other destinations."[33]

Since 1898, Puerto Rico has been under the control of the United States, fueling migratory patterns between the mainland and the island. Even during Spanish rule, Puerto Ricans settled in the US. However, it was not until the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898 that a significant influx of Puerto Rican workers to the US began. With its 1898 victory, the United States acquired Puerto Rico from Spain and has retained sovereignty since. The 1917 Jones–Shafroth Act made all Puerto Ricans US citizens, freeing them from immigration barriers. The massive migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland United States was largest in the early and late 20th century,[31] prior to its resurgence in the early 21st century.

Migration history

The strength of stateside Puerto Rican identity is fueled by a number of factors. These include the large circular migration between the island and the United States, a long tradition of the government of Puerto Rico promoting its ties to those stateside, the continuing existence of racial-ethnic prejudice and discrimination in the United States, and high residential and school segregation.[19][20][21] Notable attibutes that set the stateside Puerto Rican population apart from the rest of the US Hispanic community, is facts such as, Puerto Ricans are more likely to be proficient in English than any other Hispanic group, and Puerto Ricans are also more likely to intermarry other ethnic groups, and far more likely to intermarry or "intermingle" specifically with blacks than any other Hispanic group.[22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

The government of Puerto Rico has a long history of involvement with the stateside Puerto Rican community.[16] In July 1930, Puerto Rico's Department of Labor established an employment service in New York City.[17] The Migration Division (known as the "Commonwealth Office"), also part of Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor, was created in 1948, and by the end of the 1950s, was operating in 115 cities and towns stateside.[18]

Ricky Martin at the annual Puerto Rican parade in New York City.

, the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, and the New York League of Puerto Rican Women, Inc., among others. Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Hunter College, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies of the City University of New York at Boricua College There is also the National Puerto Rican Coalition in Washington, DC, the National Puerto Rican Forum, the Puerto Rican Family Institute, [15]

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