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Puerto Rico's Elderly Left Behind as Others Leave

Report: Hurricane Maria worsens a bad trend

spinner image Puerto Rico's Elderly Left Behind As Others Leave
High unemployment in Puerto Rico has helped push an exodus of working-age adults.

Puerto Rico’s population decline has been an ongoing trend, but a new report in the Miami Herald underlies an escalating problem: It’s the young who are leaving while older residents remain.

That trend has been worsened by Hurricane Maria, leaving Puerto Rico’s elderly to face the task of rebuilding the island, the newspaper reports.

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According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 19 percent of Puerto Rico’s population was 65 and older in 2016. In 2010, that figure was 14.5 percent. The population over 60 rose by nearly 250,000 people between 2010 and 2015, the Herald reported, even as the overall population declined by nearly 200,000 people.

High unemployment in Puerto Rico has helped push an exodus of working-age adults in recent years. CNN reported last year that Puerto Rico lost almost 2 percent of its population in 2014 alone.

In a recent study, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York estimates Puerto Rico may lose more than 470,000 residents — about 14 percent of the population — by 2019. Of those, more than 100,000 could be working-age adults.

"After more than a decade of economic stagnation, the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico’s economy has been devastating and will push Puerto Rico further unto a downward economic spiral,” the study states.

It estimates Puerto Rico "will lose the same population in a span of a couple of years after Hurricane Maria as the island lost during a prior decade of economic stagnation.”

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