Is There a Brain Drain from Puerto Rico?



By Kurt Birson and Carlos Vargas-Ramos
In 2004, the number of Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S. exceeded the population in Puerto Rico for the first time in history. This unprecedented event highlights a new shift in the pattern of Puerto Rican migration, and the now rapidly declining population in Puerto Rico presents serious challenges for the future of the island. In a recent study published by Centro, researcher Kurt Birson presents a profile of migrants moving between the United States mainland and Puerto Rico between 2006-2011 in order to better understand their demographic and human capital characteristics. Birson finds that Puerto Rican migrants leaving the island do not constitute a “brain drain,” as they are often characterized, but are rather representative of a more general segment with similar characteristics to the resident population. Returning migrants, on the other hand, tend to be slightly older, blue-collar, and have slightly lower levels of educational attainment than stateside Puerto Ricans. Evidence suggests that out-migration to the United States is strongly tied to economic difficulties on the island, and will likely continue to grow until local conditions improve. In this video, Birson discusses his research with fellow Centro researcher Carlos Vargas Ramos.

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