Puerto Ricans in the United States

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Puerto Ricans in the United States
Total population
1.7% of the U.S. population (2014)[1]Location of Puerto Rico)
Regions with significant populations
New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, with growing populations in Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, North Carolina, California, Hawaii, and Wisconsin, among others.
Spanish and English
majority Protestant and Roman Catholic, minority African diasporic religions
Related ethnic groups
Criollos, Mestizos, Mulattos, Taíno, African people, Europeans

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A Puerto Rican American (Spanish: puertorriqueño-americano,[2][3] puertorriqueño-estadounidense[4][5]), or Stateside Puerto Rican,[6][7] is a seldom used term for a resident of the United States who was "born in Puerto Rico or who traces their family ancestry to Puerto Rico."[8]

Puerto Ricans, either born in the island or in the states, are American citizens. At nine percent of the Latino population in the United States, Puerto Ricans are the second largest Latino group nationwide, and comprise 1.5% of the entire population of the United States.[9] 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.[10][11]

Despite newer migration trends, New York City continues to be home by a significant margin to the largest demographic and cultural center for Puerto Rican Americans on the mainland United States, with Philadelphia having the second largest community. The portmanteau "Nuyorican" refers to Puerto Ricans and their descendants in the New York City metropolitan area. A large portion of the Puerto Rican population in the United States resides in the Northeast region and Florida, though there are also significant Puerto Rican populations in the Chicago metropolitan area and the South Atlantic region stretching from Maryland to Georgia, and other states like Ohio, Texas, and California, among others.


Puerto Ricans have been migrating 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.[12]

Important Puerto Rican institutions have emerged from this long history.[13] Aspira was established in New York City in 1961 and is now one of the largest national Latino nonprofit organizations in the United States.[14] There is also the National Puerto Rican Coalition in Washington, DC, the National Puerto Rican Forum, the Puerto Rican Family Institute, Boricua College, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies of the City University of New York at Hunter College, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, and the New York League of Puerto Rican Women, Inc., among others.

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

The government of Puerto Rico has a long history of involvement with the stateside Puerto Rican community.[15] In July 1930, Puerto Rico's Department of Labor established an employment service in New York City.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18][19][20] Notable attibutes that set the stateside Puerto Rican population apart from the rest of the US Hispanic community, is facts such as, Puerto Ricans have the highest military enrollment rates compared to other Hispanics, 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.[21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29]

Migration history

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,[30] prior to its resurgence in the early 21st century.

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."[31] 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."[32]

Puerto Ricans migrated in search of higher-wage jobs, first to New York City, and later to other cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston.[33] 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,[34][35] 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,[36] maintaining its status as the largest metropolitan concentration and cultural center for Puerto Rican Americans by a significant margin on the U.S. mainland. The Orlando Metropolitan Area now has the fastest growing Puerto Rican population in country, at over 320,000 in 2013; its Puerto Rican population is second only to the New York metropolitan area in size.[36]

New York City neighborhoods such as East Harlem in Upper Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Bushwick in Brooklyn are often the most associated with the stateside Puerto Rican population. However, several neighborhoods in eastern North Philadelphia, especially Fairhill, have some of the highest concentrations of Puerto Ricans in the United States, Fairhill having the highest when being compared to other big city neighborhoods.[37]

New York City

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Between the 1950s and the 1980s, large numbers of Puerto Ricans migrated to New York, especially to Brooklyn, the Bronx, 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 (69%) living in East Harlem.[38] They helped others settle, find work, and build communities by relying on social networks containing friends and family.

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.

Philippe Bourgois, an anthropologist who has studied Puerto Ricans in the inner city, suggests that "the Puerto Rican community has fallen victim to poverty through social marginalization due to the transformation of New York into a global city."[39] The Puerto Rican population in East Harlem and New York City as a whole remains the poorest among all migrant groups in US cities. As of 1973, about "46.2% of the Puerto Rican migrants in East Harlem were living below the federal poverty line."[40]

The struggle for legal work and affordable housing remains fairly low and the implementation of favorable public policy fairly inconsistent. New York City's Puerto Rican community contributed to the creation of hip hop music, and to many forms of Latin music including Boogaloo, Salsa, Latin House, and Freestyle. Puerto Ricans in New York created their own cultural movement, and cultural institutions such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

New York City also became the mecca for freestyle music in the 1980s, of which Puerto Rican singer-songwriters represented an integral component.[41] Puerto Rican influence in popular music continues in the 21st century, encompassing major artists such as Jennifer Lopez.[42]

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


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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.[43] 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.[44][45]


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Demographics of Stateside Puerto Ricans

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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.[10][11] Puerto Ricans are also the second-largest Hispanic group in the USA after those of Mexican descent.[9]

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1910 1,513 —    
1920 11,811 +680.6%
1930 52,774 +346.8%
1940 69,967 +32.6%
1950 226,110 +223.2%
1960 892,513 +294.7%
1970 1,391,463 +55.9%
1980 2,014,000 +44.7%
1990 2,728,000 +35.5%
2000 3,406,178 +24.9%
2010 4,623,716 +35.7%
2014 5,266,738 +13.9%
Source: The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives[46]

Population by state

Relative to the population of each state

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.

State/Territory Puerto Rican-American
Population (2010 Census)[47][48]
Percentage[note 1]
 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 (U.S. state) 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

Out of all 50 states, the ones with the highest net inflow of Puerto Ricans moving there from the island of Puerto Rico between 2000 and 2010 included Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.[9] 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.[49] Of smaller states with populations under 3 million, Delaware has the fastest growing number of Puerto Ricans.[50] There is also a notable number of stateside-born Puerto Ricans moving from the Northeastern states to South Atlantic states, especially to Florida, but to a lesser degree many are also going to Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia as well.[48] The Northeast Corridor remains a major destination for Puerto Ricans, however the population is now largely spreading out to other areas across the country.[21][51]

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.[47] The U.S. States where Puerto Ricans were the largest Hispanic group were New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Hawaii.[47] U.S. states with higher percentages of Puerto Ricans then the national average (1.5%) as of 2010, are Connecticut (7.1%), New York (5.5%), New Jersey (4.9%), Florida (4.5%), Massachusetts (4.1%), Rhode Island (3.3%), Hawaii (3.2%), Pennsylvania (2.9%), and Delaware (2.5%).[50]

File:PR National Dots Map.jpg
The Puerto Rican population in the United States, 2000 (graphic by Angelo Falcón).

Relative to the Puerto Rican population nationwide

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.

State/Territory Puerto Rican-American
Population (2010 Census)[47][48]
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

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

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

  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
File:PR Flag EHarlem.jpg
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).

Communities with the largest Puerto Rican populations

  • New York City: 723,621 Puerto Rican residents, as of 2010;[47] 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.
  • Philadelphia: 121,643 Puerto Rican residents, as of 2010;[47] 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.
  • Chicago: 102,703 Puerto Rican residents, as of 2010;[47] 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.

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

  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

Communities with high percentages of Puerto Ricans

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

  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 10 large cities (over 200,000 in population) with the highest percentages of Puerto Rican residents include (2010 Census):[47]

  1. Rochester, NY: 13.2 percent
  2. Orlando, FL: 13.1 percent
  3. Newark, NJ: 13.0 percent
  4. Jersey City, NJ: 10.4 percent
  5. New York City, NY: 8.9 percent
  6. Buffalo, NY: 8.4 percent
  7. Philadelphia, PA: 8.0 percent
  8. Cleveland, OH: 7.4 percent
  9. Tampa, FL: 7.2 percent
  10. Boston, MA: 4.9 percent

Dispersion before 2000

Like other groups, the theme of "dispersal" has had a long history with the stateside Puerto Rican community.[52] 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.[53]

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.

Migration trends since 2000

New York State has resumed its net in-migration of Puerto Rican Americans since 2006, 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.

Puerto Rican migration trends since 2006 have been highly complex: New York State gained more Puerto Rican migrants from Puerto Rico (31% of the mainland total) as well as from elsewhere on the mainland (20% of interstate moves) between 2006 and 2012 than any other U.S. state, in absolute numbers, even while the southern United States gained the highest number as an overall national region.[51] Also, 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 areas outside New York State, especially Northern New Jersey, such that the New York City metropolitan area gained the highest number of additional Puerto Rican Americans of any metropolitan area between 2010 and 2013, to 1,265,712 in 2013.[36]

Florida has witnessed an even larger increase than New York State between 2010 and 2013, from 847,550 in 2010 to 987,663 in 2013,[54] with significant migration from Puerto Rico, as well as some migration from Chicago and New York to Florida.[51] However, most of the Puerto Rican migration to Florida has been to the central portion of the state, surrounding Orlando. Orlando, and to a lesser degree Philadelphia and Tampa have 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. According to the Pew Research Center, Puerto Rican arrivals from the island since 2000 are also less well off than earlier migrants, with lower household incomes and a greater likelihood of living in poverty.[51]


Residential segregation is a phenomenon characterizing many stateside Puerto Rican population concentrations. While blacks are the most residentially segregated group in the United States, stateside Puerto Ricans are the most segregated among US Latinos.[55]

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

Stateside Puerto Ricans are disproportionately clustered in what has been called the "Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington Corridor" along the East Coast.[citation needed] 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."[56] 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.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. These shifts in the relative sizes of Latino populations have also changed the role of the stateside Puerto Rican community.[57] 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.


Puerto Ricans in the United States - 2010 U.S Census [58]
Self-identified Race Percent of population
White alone
American Indians and Alaska Natives
Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders
Two or more races
Some Other Race

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.[47] 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.[59][60][61][62][63][64] However, there are significant numbers of whites and blacks within the Puerto Rican population as well.[65] 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.[60][66][67][68][69][70]


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Puerto Rican culture is a blend of Spanish, Taíno, and West African cultures, with recent influences from the United States and neighboring Latin American and Caribbean countries. Due to Puerto Rico's status as a US territory, people in Puerto Rico have the most exposure to US culture and Puerto Ricans in the mainland United States tend to be the most "American-ized" of all major Hispanic groups. Though, 1st-generation Puerto Rico-born migrants tend to be more traditional, while people born in the US mainland of Puerto Rican ancestry tend to merge traditional Puerto Rican culture with mainland American culture.


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The Puerto Rican variant of Spanish is mainly derived from the Spanish spoken in southern Spain and the Canary Islands. It also has noticeable influences from numerous languages, including Taíno and various West African languages. It is very similar to other Caribbean Spanish variants.

About 83% of Puerto Ricans living in the United States ages 5 and older speak English proficiently, of which 53% are bilingual in Spanish and English, and another 30% speak only English fluently with little proficiency in Spanish. The other 17% speak only Spanish fluently and report speaking English "less then very well" with little proficiency in English, compared to 34% of Hispanics overall who report doing so.[50][71] Many 1st & 2nd generation Puerto Ricans living in New York speak "Nuyorican English", a mix of local New York English with Puerto Rican Spanish influences, many Puerto Ricans living in other US cities speak with a similar English accent. More Americanized Puerto Ricans speak the local English accent with little to no Spanish traces, sounding similar to other local groups including Black Americans or assimilated Italian Americans.


The vast majority of Puerto Ricans in the United States are adherents of Christianity. Though, Catholics are the largest in number, there are also a significant number of followers of numerous Protestant denominations. Protestants make up a larger proportion of the Stateside Puerto Rican population then they do of the population of Puerto Rico. Many Puerto Rican Catholics also cohesively practice Santería, a Yoruba-Catholic syncretic mix. Smaller portions of the population are non-religious. A very small number of assimilated stateside Puerto Ricans practice Islam, among other religions, particularly in the inner city neighborhoods of Philadelphia and New York.


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Numerous Puerto Ricans born and raised in the United States made notable contributions in government, science, military, television, music, sports, art, law enforcement, modeling, education, journalism, religion, government, science, among other areas.



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] Middle-class neighborhoods predominately populated by Puerto Ricans are mostly found throughout Central Florida, including Orlando, Tampa, and their suburbs.[74] Though, significant numbers of middle-class Puerto Ricans can also be found in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, in upper North Philadelphia going northward into Montgomery County, and in the NYC area, particularly in the eastern portion of the Bronx and Westchester County, as well as scattered throughout the United States, in both traditional Puerto Rican settlements in the Northeast and Midwest, as well as in progressive sunbelt cities of the South and West.[75]

The Latino market and remittances to Puerto Rico

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.

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.[76]

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.[77]

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 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.

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).

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).

Educational attainment

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.[13]

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.[9]

Social Issues

Overall, the Puerto Rican-American population has one of the highest incarceration and poverty rates, as well as one of the lowest educational attainment rates among all ethnic groups in the United States.[13][78][79][80][81][82][83] The Puerto Rican community is also one of the most segregated ethnic groups in the country.[84][85][86][87] 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 similarities, but also to combat racism and disenfranchisement of the mid to late 20th century in their communities as a unified force.[88][89][90][91] Though, often perceived as largely poor, there is evidence of growing economic clout, as stated earlier.[73][92]

Political participation

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

The Puerto Rican community has organized itself to represent its interests in stateside political institutions for close to a century.[93] 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.[94] 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.[95]

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.[96]

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.[citation needed] However, many see a paradox in that this high level of voting is not echoed stateside.[97] 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.

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.

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

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.[98]

The reasons for the differences in Puerto Rican voter participation have been an object of much discussion, but relatively little scholarly research.[99]

Voter statistics

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.[100] For example, according to the Census:

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

See also


  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


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External links